All about Ornamental Cabbages: Are they edible?

Very good to all gardeners. We recently talked about the cultivation of chard and that the red and yellow varieties are currently being planted to brighten, with that touch of color, orchards, parks and gardens due to its use both ornamental and edible.

Well, there are also other species of cabbages that can be eaten and at the same time give the garden a very special touch of color, in this regard the star crop par excellence is ornamental cabbage.

Ornamental cabbages: characteristics

Ornamental cabbages are still cabbages (Species: Brassica oleracea ), but it differs from edible cabbages, which you all know, in the variety.

So to give you some examples, Brassica oleracea var. italica is broccoli (you can also say broccoli ehh), the var. viridis cabbage, var. capitata cabbage and var. Sabellica L. (belonging to the Achepalas group ), known as kale or kale, is intended both for human consumption and to give an aesthetic touch to our garden due to the lively colors of its leaves.

The variety Sabellica L. (a note, the L comes from its descriptor / discoverer, Carlos Linneo) is a monocarpic annual plant (once it flowers and spike dies) that is characterized by having a size and diameter of 25 to 30 cm with medium and curly leaves with purple, white or bluish hues.

This variety has therefore been selected over the years according to its phenological characteristics associated with the color of its leaves and not so much for its culinary aptitude. Which is not to say that they are not edible, they are, but their taste is surely much more bitter than other varieties.

Even so in many European countries they are very popular gastronomically, in Germany or the Netherlands there is a lot of culinary tradition associated with this crop, especially during the winter holidays.

The cultivation of ornamental cabbages

The care of this variety is very similar to that of the other cabbages, differentiating in few aspects.

They are crops that are normally established in the orchard at the end of summer or beginning of autumn to harvest them during the winter , the plant withstands frost well and even benefits it by accentuating its colored nuances. With cold, the concentration of chlorophylls (green colors) decreases, accentuating other pigments.

If you want to obtain a low-growing cabbage, direct sowing is recommended in a slightly narrow planting frame, about 15 or 20 cm wide and long between plants, so once the crop is developed the aesthetic effect will be much more attractive.

You can also get something similar to a flower with ornamental cabbages, it is recommended to make a previous seedbed and remove the lower leaves once we carry out the transplant. With this we will obtain a much taller and cleaner stem once they glean.

Irrigation should be frequent without flooding the soil, remember that in the garden during Autumn the rains are frequent, so be attentive to the weather man so as not to water the days that rain is coming.

As for pests and diseases , normally they will not appear during the autumn and winter months because their activity is slowed down by the cold, even so they can affect the crop aphids or worms that will have to be fought in an ecological way.

As always, this is just the usual, depending on the climate you have, you can cultivate this species in one way or another according to your tastes or experiences in the garden.

Curiosities about ornamental cabbage

It is commonly thought that frost gives this crop a sweeter taste, because ice accelerates the transformation of starch (a reserve substance of edible tissues) into sugars. This is partly true, but it is not due to the ice.

The transformation of starch to sugar is carried out by certain hydrolytic enzymes (they break the starch chains into simpler substances, glucose) during the winter the metabolic functions of the plant are slowed down so these enzymes work more slowly while the plant continues to do the photosynthesis synthesizing more sugars, so the glucose concentration is higher.

Types of ornamental cabbages

I have to tell you that a lot of research has been done on the Sabellica variety to improve and change its colors… That is why what we normally observe in parks and gardens as ornamental cabbage is not this variety but some hybrid of the original species.

Hybrids have been selected by various seed companies, especially Japanese, for the shape of their leaf and their colors. That is why we can currently find ornamental cabbages on the market with both fringed leaves, feathery or feathered leaves, with very varied colors and strange names such as Osaka Red or Tokyo Pink, names that come from these houses in Japan.

Even so, I am going to leave you with the most representative series so that you can admire their color and especially differentiate them when you find them walking around the city. And I say series because within each one, we can find species with different colors.

Crane Series

Curly leaf variety available in pink, hot pink, red and bicolor (yellow and pink).

Nagoya Series

Curly leaf variety available in white, pink or red colors.

Coral Queen variety

Feathered leaf variety very characteristic for its red color.

Combining these varieties can give spectacular results as in the Palace of Villandry, France.

There are many more ornamental cabbages, this world is a real madness, I hope I have brought it a little closer and that you have enjoyed

All the best.

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