Cabbage, Coleslaw and Sauerkraut

by Catherine Haug

(originally published April 8, 2010; updated April 10, 2011 with new information).

It’s spring and we are planning our summer gardens. One of the veggies sure to be included is cabbage, both for its nutritional value and its ability to grow in the cool seasons, plus keep well in winter storage.

As summer approaches, we long for leisurely summer picnics or camp-outs, and all the wonderful food treats that are staples of such events, including coleslaw. And during the fall and winter we make sauerkraut from fall, or late cabbage, as a tasty and nutritious food, and also as a way to preserve the cabbage.

kraut board

One of our early gatherings was on Homemade Sauerkraut, and introduction to Lacto-Fermentation. Our presenter, Melanie, brought her family’s treasured kraut board to demonstrate how it is used to shred heads of cabbage. This wonderful wood and steel tool is now available at Lehmans (search for ‘cabbage cutter’), as is also a ‘wooden sauerkraut stomper.’

See Homemade Sauerkraut Recipes and The EssentiaList: Pickling & Lacto-Fermentation Introduction, Sources, & Recipes for more.

Growing Cabbage

Varieties good for summer harvest are not necessarily good for fall harvest, and vice versa.

Cabbage for summer slaw

Choose early varieties for summer slaw;  start the seeds indoors (or in a cold frame) in early sprin , then transplant to your garden. It should be ready for summer harvest before it bolts (splits). Summer varieties may not thrive through the heat and long days of summer.

Cabbage for sauerkraut

Choose “fall” or “late” varieties which need all of our growing season to mature. Best to start the seeds indoors (or in a cold frame) in April, then transplant to your garden in the spring. It will grow all summer and into the fall, for fall harvest. One of the most popular cabbage varieties for making kraut is Late Flat Dutch.

[NOTE: this section updated with information from Don Bates, based on our climate and growing season].

For more information:

Here are a few web sites with information on this topic:

See also:

5 Responses to “Cabbage, Coleslaw and Sauerkraut”

  1. don bates says:

    I believe your statement about planting fall cabbage in the fall is incorrect, at least in our climate. It can be transplanted into the garden in late spring/early summer, but still needs to get its growth in the summer. I already have mine started for this year. I grew Stein’s late flat Dutch last year, and had 16 lb heads. And a whole lot of sauerkraut.
    Am wondering about the idea of a kraut festival? We could all bring our cabbages. I have an excellent antique kraut slicer I could lend to the cause.

  2. Catherine says:

    Thanks, Don. I’ll update the post with the correct information. I try to research this stuff to get the correct into, but sometimes the info is for a warmer climate or longer growing season, and they don’t mention that.

    A Kraut Fest sounds like a wonderful event. when would be a good time? October? or earlier?. I know several in our community have different methods of fermenting the sliced cabbage, so it could be a very informative and fun event.

  3. Shelli says:

    I made Kraut for the first time two years ago and I have grown to love and enjoy the process. I think a Kraut Fest sounds fun. I would definately participate.

  4. Catherine says:

    Perhaps we could talk Cheryl into bringing her Kraut board, too.
    And in a similar vein, we’ve discussed having an Ice Cream party this summer, perhaps July. Do you know of anyone who has an old-fashioned ice cream maker?

  5. Catherine says:

    Don Bates continues:
    Last year was my first attempt at [making kraut], though I must say it was quite successful (I’m almost done with my last jar!). I’m thinking September is probably the right time, though I’ve read that a little frost actually improves the cabbage, so maybe late Sept./early Oct.

    I wonder if anybody knows how to make kimchi or other fermented goodies? I’m anxious to learn this.

    Cat responds: I make fermented bread and butter pickles and pickled beets (not using vinegar), which are both wonderful. And also beet kvass (a drink). I use liquid whey (from yogurt) to start the fermentation. The book Wild Fermentation by S. A. Katz is excellent.

    See Culturing & Fermentation Files for links to fermentation files and sites.