How To Harvest Cabbage | When To Harvest Cabbage & Storage Tips

So you’ve spent the early spring growing cabbage in your vegetable garden—how do you know when it’s time to harvest?

Cabbage, a member of the brassica family (and kin to Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower), is as easy to harvest as it is to grow. Many types of cabbage—red cabbage, Savoy, even Early Jersey Wakefield—follow a similar pattern when it comes to planting. And whether you’ve chosen to work with a smaller head or a larger variety of cabbage, the principles of harvesting remaining relatively similar.

Ready to turn your cabbage harvest into slaws, soups, and stir fry? Here are our best tips to harvest cabbage, store cabbage and enjoy your bountiful cabbage in the kitchen.

Armed with cabbage seed packets instead of cabbage heads? Check out our growing guide to learn how to plant cabbage.

When To Harvest Cabbage? 

Your plant will typically be ready for harvest between 60 and 90 days after planting. This will be in the late summer if you planted in the early spring.  

You’ll know it’s harvest time when the cabbage head on your plant is firm and hearty throughout. Use your finger to press in on the head. If there is even a little give, keep it in the ground for a little while longer. Once it’s completely firm and the leaves curled together tightly, it’s ready to enjoy. Harvest during the cooler part of the day, preferably in the morning, and don’t leave harvested plants out in the sunlight. 

What tools do you need to harvest cabbage?

While there are special cabbage knives available to get your cabbage heads out of the ground with ease, you definitely do not need any special equipment to make the most of your harvest. You simply need a large, sharp knife and sturdy gardening gloves to give you a good grip.

Cabbage Growing Stages

Here are the growing stages you can expect on your cabbage growing journey. 

Getting Settled

The first stage of cabbage happens right after you start seeds or plant your transplant. Seeds will begin to germinate underground, developing roots and beginning to transform into a healthy plant. 

Plant Development

The first signs of growth you’ll see are dark green leaves coming out of the soil. The leaves will continue to multiply, eventually leading to a stage called cupping. It is during cupping that the leaves will begin to come together to form the classic cabbage heads we all know and love. 

It’s Time To Harvest

When the head of your cabbage has become hard, it’s ready to harvest. Wait until the head is resistant to pushback with a finger before taking it out of the ground. 

I Waited Too Long, Now What?

If you wait too long to harvest, your cabbage will likely split, becoming too tough to eat in some areas. In this case, cut away the whole plant, outer leaves, and all. Cut off the inedible parts of the plant, and enjoy the rest as usual. 

How To Harvest Cabbage

After between two to six months (depending on if you started with seeds or young plants), your cabbage should be ready to harvest and enjoy. Mature heads are large, firm to the touch, and surrounded by larger outer leaves.

To harvest your cabbage, take a sharp knife to the bottom of the cabbage head. If you want to keep growing your cabbage plant, leave the loose outer leaves and take only the cabbage head. If you are done for the growing season, place your knife at the base of the plant, just above the mulch, and cut the stem completely.

How do you harvest cabbage so it keeps growing?

If you would like for your cabbage to keep growing, don’t harvest the whole head. Instead, take a sharp knife to the inner head of cabbage, leaving the outer leaves to keep growing. Cut it at the lowest possible point for best results. If you are all done growing, use a sharp knife to prune the entire plant, cabbage head, outer leaves, and all. 

How Many Times Can You Harvest Cabbage?

After the initial harvest, you can potentially continue to harvest additional heads from the same cabbage plant. Many times, several smaller heads of cabbage will grow in the place of the original cutting. You can expect around three or four heads, but some plants are able to produce up to six. The heads will be smaller but lighter in color and much more tender.

How to Store Your Fresh Cabbage Harvest

Cabbage likes cool, humid environments. The best way to store them is in a root cellar, but since most urban dwellings do not have them, the refrigerator is the next best thing. 

Do not wash your cabbage before refrigerating, as it can make the leaves grow soggy and limp. Instead. wrap the head in damp paper towels, zip it in a large plastic bag, and store in the crisper area of your fridge. 

Because its flavor is on the…stronger side, we recommend enjoying your cabbage fresh as opposed to canning it. That said, there are some excellent ways to preserve cabbage if you choose to do so. Sauerkraut and kimchi are delicious additions to many dishes. 

Cabbage Recipes We Love!

Cabbage is a versatile ingredient that is both nutritious and delicious. Check out some of our favorite ways to stew, ferment and stir fry this amazing veggie.

Our Grow Pros Most Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know when cabbage is ready to pick?

Your cabbage is ready to harvest when the central head is firm to the touch and surrounded by large outer leaves.

Does cabbage grow back after you pick it?

Yes! If cut correctly, cabbage can grow between three and six additional heads in the same place as the original cutting.

How long does it take for cabbage to grow?

Cabbage takes between two and six months to become fully mature.

How do you tell if cabbage is ripe?

Touch the central head of your lettuce plant. If it is crisp and firm to the touch, it’s ready to come out of the ground.

How do you harvest cabbage without damaging the plant?

Take a very sharp knife to the base of the central cabbage head, taking care not to harm any of the outer leaves. Cut only the head, not the leaves, and the plant should continue to grow as normal.

What are some of the uses for cabbage?

Cabbage is incredibly versatile. Stew it, use it for lettuce wraps or enjoy it in a crunch homemade slaw.

Start Growing Your Own Cabbage!

Inspired to start growing and harvesting cabbage and other produce in your home vegetable garden? Check out our blog to read more gardening tips and tricks.

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