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How to Harvest and Store Cabbage for Maximum Freshness

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Cabbage is a versatile vegetable you can enjoy raw, cooked, or fermented. Harvest cabbage when the heads are firm and compact. 

Cut the cabbage head with a sharp knife from the stem, leaving a few outer leaves attached. Including a section of the stem improves moisture retention during storage. Store cabbage in a cool, dark place with good air circulation.

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Cabbages are nutritious and versatile vegetables that can be eaten raw, cooked, or fermented. However, proper harvesting and storing are essential to enjoy their full benefits and flavor. 

Harvesting cabbages at the right time and in the right way can prevent damage, disease, and loss of quality. Storing cabbages in optimal conditions can extend their shelf life and preserve their freshness. Here are some tips on how to harvest and store cabbages effectively.

  • Harvest cabbages when they are firm and compact. Depending on the variety, this can take 50 to 110 days after planting. To prevent splitting and rotting, avoid delaying harvests for too long.
  • Remove and discard any damaged or diseased leaves. Please do not wash the cabbage before storing it, as this can introduce moisture and bacteria that can spoil it faster.
  • Store cabbages in cool, dark, and humid places, such as refrigerators or root cellars. Ideally, the temperature should be between 32°F and 36°F (0°C – 2°C), and the humidity should be around 95%. You can wrap the cabbage loosely in plastic or paper to prevent moisture loss and odor transfer.

When to Harvest Cabbage

A woman is kneeling on a garden bed filled with cabbages. She holds a freshly harvested cabbage in her hands and looks towards the camera with a smile on her face. The green leaves of the surrounding cabbages create a vibrant backdrop for the scene.
“Harvesting the fruits (and veggies) of my labor 🌱🥬”

Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable you can harvest in early summer or late autumn. The best time to harvest cabbage depends on the head’s variety and size. Cabbage is ready to harvest when the head feels firm and solid and the size is suitable.

Signs of Maturity

Some signs of maturity are:

  • The head has reached its expected size, varying from 4 to 12 inches in diameter, depending on the variety.
  • The outer leaves are green and crisp, and the inner leaves are tightly packed and white, pale green, or a mix of pale purple and white, depending on the cabbage variety.
  • The head is smooth and round, without cracks or splits.
  • The stem is short and thick and does not bend easily.

To harvest cabbage, cut the stem close to the base of the head with a sharp knife. Leave some outer leaves attached to protect the head from bruising or insects. Store cabbage in a cool and humid place for up to two weeks, or refrigerate for extended storage.

Harvesting Early and Late Varieties

Different types of cabbage, such as green, red, savoy, and napa, vary in shape, color, and texture. One factor affecting cabbage production is harvesting time, which depends on the variety and growing conditions.

Harvesting Times for Early Cabbage Varieties

Early cabbage varieties mature in less than 70 days from transplanting. They are suitable for spring and fall planting, as they tolerate cool temperatures and frost. 

Harvesting times for early cabbage varieties depend on the planting date, the variety, and the weather conditions. Generally, early cabbage varieties can be harvested when the heads are firm and reach a size of 3 to 5 pounds. Some common early cabbage varieties and their approximate harvesting times are:

Photo of a person using a knife to cut through a large cabbage head that they are holding in their left hand. The cabbage leaves are green and tightly packed together. There are other cabbage plants visible in the background.
“Freshly picked and ready to slice! Getting started on making some delicious coleslaw with homegrown cabbage 🥬🔪 #farmtotable #gardeninglife”
  • Early Jersey Wakefield: 50 to 60 days from transplanting
  • Golden Acre: 60 to 65 days from transplanting
  • Copenhagen Market: 65 to 70 days from transplanting
  • Early Flat Dutch: 70 to 75 days from transplanting

Harvesting Times for Mid-season Cabbage Varieties

Mid-season cabbage varieties mature 70 to 90 days after planting, suitable for regions with moderate temperatures and rainfall. Some examples of mid-season cabbage varieties include Glory of Enkhuizen and Savoy King.

The best time to harvest mid-season cabbage varieties is when the heads are firm and compact and have reached their optimal size and weight. Generally, mid-season cabbage varieties can be harvested from late summer to early fall.

Harvesting Times for Late Cabbage Varieties

Late Harvest cabbage varieties are types of cabbage that can withstand frost and cold temperatures. They are ideal for growing in regions with short summers and long winters. 

Harvesting times for late cabbage varieties depend on several factors, such as the planting date, the climate, and the desired size and quality of the heads. Late cabbage varieties generally take about 90 to 110 days from sowing to maturity. 

Some examples of Late Harvest cabbage varieties are:

  • Late Flat: This Dutch variety takes about 108 days to mature and can weigh as much as 30 pounds (13.6 kg). 
  • Storage No. 4: This variety has smooth, light green leaves that are firm and crisp. It can mature in 85 to 100 days and produces medium-sized heads that weigh about 4 pounds. It is a good variety for storing over winter.
  • Huron F1: A hybrid variety that produces large, oblong, green heads that weigh 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 – 7 kg) and measure 8 to 10 inches (20 – 25 cm) in diameter. It is a late-season cabbage that takes about 110 days to mature from transplanting. 

How to Harvest Cabbage

Three individuals harvesting cabbage from a field, with two person crouching down and cutting the cabbage with a knife while the other one stand and gather the harvested cabbages. The sun is shining in the background, illuminating the green leaves of the surrounding plants.
“Bringing in the harvest! 🌱🌞 Nothing beats the satisfaction of fresh, homegrown cabbage straight from the field. #FarmLife #HarvestSeason #FreshProduce”

Pat yourself on theYou You’ve navigated planting times, fought off potential pests, and kept your cabbage plants healthy. It’s time to harvest,

Cutting Techniques

Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable harvestable from late spring to early winter. Depending on the variety and the desired cabbage size, it may take 50 to 110 days to mature from planting. You need a sharp knife and some basic cutting techniques to harvest cabbage.

The first step is to remove any yellow or damaged outer leaves from the cabbage head. Then, cut the stem close to the base of the head with a single downward stroke. Try not to damage the surrounding leaves or roots of the plant, as this can cause rotting or disease.

If you want to harvest more than one head from the same plant, leave some lower leaves intact and make a shallow cut across the top of the stem. This will encourage new smaller heads to form at the leaf axils. You can harvest these mini cabbages later in the season.

After cutting, gently twist and pull off the cabbage head from the stem. You can store fresh cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or process it for freezing, pickling, or fermenting.

You must move any harvested cabbages out of the sun immediately.

Handling and Cleaning

Handling and cleaning cabbage properly after harvest is essential to ensure its quality and safety. Here are some tips for handling and cleaning cabbage after harvest:

  • Cut off any damaged or diseased outer leaves and discard them. These leaves may harbor pests or pathogens that can affect the rest of the cabbage head.
  • Rinse the cabbage head under running water to remove any dirt or debris. You can also soak the cabbage in a solution of water and vinegar (one part vinegar to four parts water) for 10 minutes to help kill any bacteria or fungi on the surface.
  • Drain the cabbage well and pat it dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Excess moisture can cause the cabbage to rot or mold faster.
  • Store the cabbage in a perforated plastic bag or a container with a lid in the refrigerator. Cabbage can last several weeks if stored properly in a cold and humid environment.
  • Before using the cabbage, remove any wilted or yellowing leaves and rinse it again under running water. Cut off the stem end and core the cabbage if desired. You can then chop, shred, slice, or grate the cabbage according to your recipe.

Storing Fresh Cabbage

A person is holding a wooden crate with a single large cabbage on it, with a lush green field of rows of growing cabbage plants in the background.
“Harvesting time! Excited to add this beauty to my collection of fresh, homegrown veggies 🌱🥬 #cabbagepatch #homegrown #farmtotable”

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and fiber. However, the nutritional value of cabbage may vary depending on how you prepare them. 

  • Raw cabbage has the highest amount of vitamin C and antioxidants but also contains goitrogens that may interfere with thyroid function. 
  • Cooking cabbage reduces the goitrogens and makes it easier to digest but lowers the vitamin C and antioxidant content. 
  • Fermenting cabbage produces beneficial bacteria that can improve gut health and immunity and increase sodium and histamine levels. 

Each method of preparing cabbage has advantages and disadvantages, and consuming a variety of cabbage dishes may provide a balanced intake of nutrients.

Ideal Storage Conditions

Cabbage is a cool-season crop that you can store for several months under proper conditions. The ideal storage conditions for cabbage are low temperature and high humidity.

Low-temperature slow cabbage’s respiration and senescence processes, while high humidity prevents moisture loss and wilting. 

The recommended temperature range for cabbage storage is between (32°F and 36°F (0°C – 2°C), and the recommended relative humidity is between 90% and 95%. 

Store cabbages in a well-ventilated area, avoiding an accumulation of ethylene gas, which can cause yellowing and off-flavors. Avoid storing cabbages with fruits or vegetables that produce ethylene, such as apples, bananas, avocados, and tomatoes.

Ethylene gas is a ripening hormone released by fruit to accelerate the ripening process in surrounding fruit.

Storage Methods

Cabbage can last longer if stored properly. Different methods for storing cabbage depend on how you plan to use it later. Here are some techniques for storing cabbage to maintain freshness:

  • Store whole heads of cabbage in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. They can last for up to two months this way. Do not wash or cut the cabbage before storing it, as this will reduce its shelf life.
  • Store it in an airtight container or a ziplock bag with as much air squeezed out as possible for cut or shredded cabbage. You can also wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Cut or shredded cabbage can last up to a week in the refrigerator.
  • Store cooked cabbage in an airtight container or a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. Cooked cabbage can last for up to four days this way. You can freeze cooked cabbage for up to six months by placing it in freezer bags and squeezing out as much air as possible.

Preserving Cabbage

A fresh, whole cabbage sits next to three jars filled with fermenting cabbage. The jars are sealed with lids and sit on a wooden table. The background is blurred, bringing focus to the vegetables in the foreground.
“From fresh to fermented: the journey of cabbage. Excited to see how these jars turn out!”


Freezing is a simple and effective way to preserve cabbage for later use. Cabbage can be frozen raw or blanched, depending on your preference and how you plan to use it. Here are the steps to freeze cabbage:

  • Choose fresh and firm cabbages that are free of blemishes and insects. Wash them well and remove any wilted or damaged outer leaves.
  • Cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the core. You can also shred or chop the cabbage if you like.
  • To blanch the cabbage, boil a large pot of water and add salt. Blanch the cabbage quarters for 3 minutes or shredded or chopped cabbage for 1.5 minutes. Drain well and cool quickly in ice.
  • If you want to freeze the cabbage raw, skip the blanching step and pat dry the cabbage pieces with paper towels.
  • Arrange the cabbage pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours.
  • Transfer the frozen cabbage pieces to freezer bags or containers, leaving some space for expansion. Label with the date and use within 9 to 12 months.
  • Thaw frozen cabbage in the refrigerator overnight or in cold water for a few minutes. You can also cook it directly from frozen in soups, stews, casseroles, or stir-fries.


Making sauerkraut and other fermented cabbage products is a simple and rewarding way to preserve and enhance the flavor and nutrition of this cruciferous vegetable. 

Fermentation is a natural process involving sugars breakdown by beneficial bacteria and yeasts, resulting in tangy, sour, and probiotic-rich foods. To make sauerkraut, you only need fresh cabbage, salt, and a clean glass jar. 

You can add spices, herbs, or other vegetables to create variations. The basic steps are:

  • Wash and chop the cabbage into thin shreds or small pieces.
  • Sprinkle salt over the cabbage and massage it with your hands until it releases some juice.
  • Pack the cabbage tightly into a jar, leaving some headspace at the top. Make sure the cabbage is submerged in its juice. If not, add some filtered water to cover it, which is generally unnecessary.
  • Seal the jar loosely with a lid or a cloth secured with a rubber band, allowing air to escape but preventing dust or insects from getting in.
  • Place the jar in a cool and dark place away from direct sunlight. Fermentation time depends on the temperature and your taste preference but usually ranges from one to four weeks.
  • Check on your sauerkraut every few days and press it with a clean spoon or spatula to release any air bubbles and submerge it under the brine.
  • Taste your sauerkraut periodically until it reaches your desired level of sourness. Once ready, transfer it to the refrigerator to slow down further fermentation.

You can enjoy your homemade sauerkraut as a side dish, salad topping, sandwich filling, or snack. You can also make other fermented cabbage products, such as kimchi (a spicy Korean condiment by following similar methods but using different ingredients and seasonings.


Canning cabbage is a method of preserving this vegetable for long-term storage. Canning involves heating the cabbage in jars to kill bacteria and create a vacuum seal that prevents spoilage. 

Raw pack means filling the jars with raw shredded or chopped cabbage and adding boiling water or vinegar.

Hot packing means cooking the cabbage first in water or vinegar, then packing it into jars. Both methods require processing the jars in a pressure canner for a specific time, depending on the jar size and altitude.

  • Wash and trim the cabbage heads and cut them into quarters or smaller pieces.
  • Blanch the cabbage pieces in boiling water for 3 minutes and drain well.
  • Pack the hot cabbage pieces into clean, sterilized jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top.
  • Add salt (optional) and boiling water or vinegar to cover the cabbage, leaving half an inch (12 mm) of headspace.
  • Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth and secure the lids and bands.
  • Process the jars in a pressure canner for 65 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure for altitudes up to 1000 feet (304 m). Adjust the pressure according to your altitude if higher than 1000 feet.
  • Let the jars cool completely, and check the seals. Store them in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Enjoy your canned cabbage as a side dish or in your favorite recipes!

FAQs on How to Harvest and Store Cabbage for Maximum Freshness

In Summary

Cut the head from the stem with a sharp knife to harvest cabbage when it is firm and compact. Leave some outer leaves attached to protect the head from bruising. As seen above, there are several ways of storing cabbages.

Growing your cabbage is a rewarding and healthy hobby. You can enjoy fresh and crunchy cabbage in salads, soups, stir-fries and more. Storing your late spring or early winter harvested will allow you to enjoy your homegrown cabbage for months to come and reap the benefits of this nutritious vegetable.

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