Chinese Cabbage (Wong Bok)



Greek myth says the first cabbage sprang from the tears of a prince whom the wine god Dionysus punished for trampling his grapes.

Whatever its beginnings cabbage has served mankind well.

It is known to have grown wild for centuries near European and English sea coasts and still grows wild in some parts of England.

Just who was responsible for its cultivation is not known, but Italy is credited with teaching the Germans to plant and eat cabbage,

while Sauerkraut is said to be a Tartar invention that was brought into Germany by the Slavs and the Dutch brought coleslaw into the U.S.A. It's given us a big family of noble ancestors.

Cabbage yields more food per square metre than most other vegetables except Kale and root crops.

There are many varieties of cabbage on the market in both seed and in seedling punnets.

Cool Climate Cultivation

Savoy cabbage seems the best type to grow in cool climates " savoy" means crinkled leaf, so expect these cabbages to have these.

They are the best salad cabbage and this is mainly what we grow cabbage for - coleslaw.

Red Acre is another variety that is available through

"The Lost Seed"

This company( originally Tasmanian, is marketing its seed online.Some seed is not able to be imported to Tasmania due to quarantine restrictions.

I have found their seed to be reliable in germination and vigorous in growth. They are good people to deal with.
Cabbages of different types can be grown in cool climate conditions all year but the knack is to select the variety that suits the conditions.

Sow Vertus Savoy cabbage in October for summer coleslaw.It's flavour in coleslaw is superior.

If you are plagued by cabbage white butterfly ( I am), you will need to spray thoroughly and weekly with Dipel

to have your hearts develop without severe grub damage.

Once the cabbage heads up ( about 12 weeks after sowing) you need to harvest it,

as summer cabbages usually split quickly once the head has formed.

So sow only 2 -3 plants at a time and stagger sowings thus:

When the first true leaves appear on your cabbage, ( about 3 weeks from sowing) you should sow further seed.

(October -March) As summer growth quickens until end of December, you should be able to have a regular supply of cabbage

from December through to August after Autumn sowings.

Cabbage appreciates a good foundation dressing of Complete Organic Fertiliser ( 4 litres per 10 square metres).

It is always best to sow seed direct as seedlings are often setback after planting due to a disturbance of their roots.

For best results the tap root of cabbage should be undisturbed.

Setbacks in growth usually result in a less than satisfactory result in the heading of the cabbage,

or sometimes make it more prone to attack from disease.


It is always best to allow the optimum space for vegetables to develop.

This way they take less watering as each plant obtains the water necessary from a larger area of ground

and they develop better nutritional qualities as they are not in severe competition with the plants around them.

Space your cabbages at 60cm x 60cm centres for best results.

Side dress your plants every 3 weeks with COF until the plants no longer put on a growth spurt.

This indicates they are getting sufficient nutrient for optimum development.

Varieties suitable for Cool Climate cultivation

Early varieties ( sow August-September indoors- plant out in late September or October)

45x45 cm spacings

Copenhagen Market

Sugar Loaf Golden Acre

Savoy Ace

Vertus Savoy

Late Varieties ( take longer to mature 120-180 days

Savoy King

Over wintered varieties (sow mid March-mid April)

These varieties will usually develop good leaves before June and hold over winter

before setting a head in September/ October and then bolting to seed. They provide cabbage in Spring.

Recipes Worth Trying

Sauerkraut, sour cabbage, is a german lacto fermented cabbage dish.

In the 18th Century Captain James Cook used sauerkraut to prevent the death of his sailors from scurvy

but Germany’s sauerkraut is actually a version of chinese kraut, brought to Europe by the hoards of Genghis Khan.
Raw cabbage is implicated in depressed thyroid functioning, while fermented cabbage and other vegetables

provide many health benefits and should not be under estimated for their healing powers.

Basic Recipe for Sauerkraut

  • 1 litre glass jar with plastic lid or spring lid
  • 1 Cabbage Medium sized (1kg)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons of Kefir whey(you may use already fermented sauerkraut for an innoculant or simply add another tablespoon of salt.)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of carraway seeds or fresh chopped dill.

Germans have always sliced the cabbage with a specially made machine and pounded them with a wooden mortar in a large crock

to bruise the cell walls.

Grate cabbage with a hand grater or process in a food processor, then mix in a large food grade plastic bucket

(get them at a hardware store) with the salt and Kefir whey.

Pound with a meat mallet or wooden pounder of some kind.

Pound until the juices cause suction when you pull the pounder out of the mix.

Press the mixture into a clean glass jar using a wooden spoon.

Press firmly until the juice rises to the top and covers the mixture, which it will do when it is pounded enough.

Leave at least one inch or more of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion.

Cover the kraut and store the jar in a cupboard for 3-5 days (depending on the ambient temperature) before transferring to the refrigerator.

The sauerkraut may be consumed after a couple of weeks,

though if you allow the fermentation process to continue for a month or so in the refrigerator

you will be well rewarded with a most delicious flavour.

I love sauerkraut at 4 months old.

As with all fermenting, follow your nose. If it smells putrid or you have any doubts about the quality, then discard the sauerkraut and start again.

Russian Cabbage Soup

In a large heavy saucepan, place

  • 250gm lean beef ( chuck or gravy)
  • 250 gm fresh pork ( with a little fat)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons od salt
  • a dash of ginger
  • 1-2 carrots, scraped and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered

Cover. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer until meat is tender. Add

  • 1 small head cabbage,shredded

Cook until tender. Remove meat from soup, cut into slices and serve with soup.

Makes 4 serves

Wong Bok

Wong Bok is a chinese variety of cabbage which is best grown to mature in the cooler months.

It is very mild in flavour and most suitable for stir fry dishes.

You can sow this seed reliably in small numbers and it will germinate within 7 days.

It does not transplant well if the tap root is disturbed.

Sow the seed where you want it to grow and thin out to spacings of 60x 75 cm.

If you do need to transplant seedlings, do this as soon as thy have gained there first true leaves.

I find a Comfrey tea is wonderful for the establishment of seedlings.

Buying punnets of seedlings at the nursery is not a good idea.

These are generally root bound and the result is not what you would want.

Wong Bok is a sensational vegetable for stir fry and is much milder in flavour than other varieties of cabbage.

It appears to be not so favoured by the Cabbage White Butterfly, which appears to be particularly active in Australian gardens.

To minimise the effect of this moth you can use a cloche of fine netting supported by hoops over your plants.

These prevent the moth from laying eggs and save the necessity to spray with Dipel regularly.



Broccoli would have to be one of my favourite vegetables.

It is easy to grow and great to eat.

After providing a full head at about 12 weeks, Broccoli will provide side shoots until you get sick of snipping these regularly to prevent it flowering.

It is such a persistent vegetable.

Providing you follow the principle that what you put in is what you eat, Broccoli is available all year in the food garden.

I don't grow it all year as there are so many other vegetables that provide a more interesting diet at different times of the year.

I usually sow seed in late January and the Broccoli grows to maturity in late Autumn and through the winter.

The cooler the weather, the more reliable is this vegetable in holding its head.

Allow about 12-13 weeks for it to mature. e.g. sow seed on Jan 25th- expect to harvest April 25th.

Transplant seedlings March 25th - harvest Broccoli mid June- late July.



Cauliflower has developed a reputation as a difficult brassica to grow.

It must be grown in good rich soil that has been fertilised with COF prior to planting of seeds or seedlings.

Water and regular side dressing is important for cauliflower as any severe check in either will usually result in poor head formation.

I only grow cauliflower in 2 sowings in January and 1 in early February for harvest in April through June.

Transplanting seedlings in March will produce heads by July if the winter is mild and you have watered and fed them well.

I have found that growing at other times relies extra special care and the right variety of cauliflower.

Seed packets are most unreliable on the information for planting in cool climates.

Space the seedlings at 60x 75 cm. Side dress a little fertiliser close to the plants shortly after germination and again when they are about 20 cm tall.

The size of the head you get is dependent on how large the plant has become prior to heading.

Remember consistent and deep watering is essential for all brassica s-especially cauliflower.

I grow Snowball, an Italian heirloom variety first introduced in 1830.

This variety is especially suited to cool climates. producing small to medium sized heads that are fairly reliable . is a reliable supplier of this seed.

Brussels Sprouts

This vegetable has been bred to emphasise a tendency for all brassicas to form buds in the notches of stem leaves.

Brussels Sprouts loosley head at the top like cabbages.

There are a number of varieties that are bred to produce sprouts under different conditions.

The genetic programming that tells the plant when to form sprouts determines whether it will be early, mid-season or late.

I usually sow a Mid- season maturing variety such as Yates Tight head about mid December.

Dess the bed in which you will grow the sprouts with 250gms of COF per square metre.

The seeds sprout vigorously in about 10 days. Transplant the young seedlings once they have true leaves at 90x 90 cm spacings.

They should be watered consistently and regularly fed with an organic foliar fertilizer such as comfrey tea.

This keeps the plants growing strongly and it is not high in nitrogen which tends to cause the sprouts to be loose.

You need to stake the sprout plants when they are about 30 cm high to prevent them blowing over.

Spray regularly with Dipel to prevent cabbage white butterfly eating the leaves.

The sprouts should start to firm up in April and will be ready for consistent picking when the weather turns cold in May.

Pull off the bottom leaves of the plant and harvest the sprouts from the bottom up.


I particularly love Brussels Sprouts Piquant- even the children will eat them if cooked this way.

Trim the outside leaves off the sprouts as these are tough and harsh in taste.

Lightly steam or boil the sprouts for 2 minutes.

In a frying pan mix a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or butter

a sprinkle of ground ginger

some finely chopped garlic

a pinch of basil

3 drops of Tabasco

Cook this mix until the garlic is golden.

Drop in the sprouts and coat them with the mixture, tossing them so that the heat does not burn them.

Finally sprinkle some white wine vinegar over the sprouts. Turn off the heat and serve.


Pak Choi

Pak Choi is an easy brassica to grow and is delicious Chinese vegetable suitable for stir fry dishes.

The young leaves and stems are excellent chopped or diced in salads whilst older leaves are best stir-fried or braised.

It prefers a well-drained soil and a warm sunny position.

Fertilise the bed with 250gms COF per square metre and sow the seed just below the surface in shallow furrows.

Thin out to the strongest seedlings about 40 cm apart after germination, which takes 6-10 days. Keep the plants well watered.

Plants mature about 6-8 weeks from sowing.

In a cool climate Pak Choi is suitable for sowing between September and March.



Kale is the easiest to grow brassica because it is virtually a wild weed that all the garden brassicas were bred from.

The leaves and petioles (leaf stalks) of most varieties can be a salad green if cut finely and used in moderation

so that their strong flavour doesn't dominate the other greens.

Kale develops more sweetness after experiencing some hard frosts, but may quickly become tough and lose its flavour after picking,

so you need to pick a little often rather than tying to store it in the refrigerator.

Red Russian is by far the best variety to grow in a cool climate.

You can use it in salads or in soups.

It boils well and the juice is quite drinkable and a wonderful tonic.



It is grown much like broccoli. Sow in midsummer.

Place a pinch of four or five seeds in a thumb tip sized depression you make 1-1.5 cm deep. Space on 60x75cm centres.

Working some fertiliser and compost into the bed before sowing,<

keeping the plants watered and careful thinning and weeding is more than adequate for growing Kale.

If you are not used to eating Kale try 2 -3 plants for a start.


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This page was last updated on 31/04/2013