The rainy weather in May and June has prevented some Iowans from planting their vegetable garden. Fortunately, there is still time to plant some vegetables. Chinese cabbage, for example, actually performs best when planted in summer for a fall crop.
Chinese cabbage is a versatile garden vegetable. It has a sweeter, milder flavor than true cabbage. The crisp, tender leaves may be used like lettuce in salads, shredded for cole slaw, steamed, or stir-fried.
Sow the seed of Chinese cabbage at a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in July. (Chinese cabbage frequently goes to seed when planted in the spring.) Rows should be spaced 20 to 24 inches apart. Thin plants when 1 to 2 inches tall. Within the row, plants should be spaced 12 to 18 inches apart. An excellent variety for Iowa is 'Michihli.' The heads of this variety may be up to 18 inches tall, while only 3 to 5 inches thick. The outer leaves are dark green. The inner leaves are creamy white.
Chinese cabbage is normally harvested when the heads are fully developed. However, plants may be harvested as greens anytime prior to maturity. There are approximately 70 to 90 days from planting until maturity. Once harvested, Chinese cabbage may be stored in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Ideal storage conditions are temperatures of 32 to 40 F and a relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent.
This article originally appeared in the June 28, 1996 issue, p. 109.
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