Before harvesting cabbage, it's important to make sure that the head is ready to be picked. The best way to determine if your head of cabbage is ready for harvesting is to squeeze it. Make sure the head is firm and doesn't give much when squeezed.
Sometimes, a cabbage plant will form a nice looking head that looks ready to be picked. However, looks can be deceiving. The leaves on the inside may be loose and flimsy. You can determine this by squeezing the head. If the head is a little soft, let it mature another couple of days. If it feels solid and tightly formed, it's ready to be picked.
Some varieties of cabbage have a narrow window of just a few days when they need to be picked. Other varieties can sit in the garden for a couple of weeks without deteriorating, as long as the weather remains favorable. In general, the larger the cabbage variety, the longer they will hold up well while sitting on the plant, waiting for you to harvest them.
When harvesting cabbage, you'll need a sharp knife. Use the knife to cut through the stem, below the head. Remove the head but leave the plant in the ground. Many times, in a couple of weeks, a smaller second head of cabbage will develop near the base of the harvested head. These extra heads of cabbage are more likely to form if the weather is still relatively cool after the main heads are harvested. These bonus heads are much smaller and less dense than the main head, but still taste great.
When you're done harvesting all of the cabbage, the plants can be pulled up and added to your compost pile.
Freshly harvested cabbage will store nicely in your refrigerator for 2-3 weeks, as long as you don't keep it in an airtight bag. Good airflow around the cabbage head will make it last longer.
Cabbage generally is not good canned or frozen. If you have extra cabbage, you can use it to make sauerkraut, which will last for several months.
Now that you're harvested your cabbage, it's time for a few of our favorite cabbage recipes.