Cruciferous vegetables, mostly cool-season annuals in the Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae) family, are part of a healthy diet, prized for their high fiber content and unique sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates.  This vegetable family includes things many of us love (or love to hate) like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard, turnips, bok choy, and Chinese cabbage.  They’re also commonly grown in Panhandle gardens.  However, as anyone who has grown these species knows, some are easier than others.  For example, kale and radish are among the easiest of all plants to grow.  But get beyond the basics and folks often run into difficulty with species like broccoli and cabbage.  The high rainfall/humidity and frequent warm spells experienced here during the growing season often lead to serious pathogen problems, dooming my garden in years past.  However, this winter, thanks to a couple of new cultivars, ‘Capture’ Cabbage and ‘Burgundy’ Sprouting Broccoli, I’ve enjoyed a plentiful supply of tasty crucifers!

4’x 8′ raised bed planted with ‘Capture’ on 24″ centers.

‘Capture’ Cabbage, developed by Bejo Seeds of California as a mid-season “white” fresh market cabbage for the South, has been an outstanding performer in my garden this year.  Touted as highly resistant to Black Rot and Fusarium Yellows (by far the two most devastating pathogens of Cabbage), I had to try it for myself. I planted seeds 24” apart in my standard 4’ wide x 8’ long x 12” deep raised beds filled with mushroom compost and aged pine bark.  Seedlings were fertilized once about three weeks after germination with a general purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer.  The plants that developed have been extremely vigorous (I’m glad I paid attention to plant spacing guidelines on the seed packet!) and have not shown ANY evidence of disease, even through an unusually warm and wet winter that would have hammered older susceptible varieties.  My plants have begun to develop heads and should be ready for harvest and the kitchen in just a couple more weeks!  If you’ve had problems getting a cabbage from germination to head formation and harvest without serious disease pressure, give ‘Capture’ a try next fall!

‘Burgundy’ Broccoli in the author’s raised bed garden.

‘Burgundy’ Broccoli, developed by Elsom Seeds in the United Kingdom, is a unique variety sure to turn heads in your garden.  True to its name, the prolific florets are a deep, purple color.  Though the central “head” on ‘Burgundy’ is quite small, that’s not the primary feature anyway.  Considered a “sprouting” broccoli, this cultivar puts out an abundance of side shoots that make ‘Burgundy’ sort of a cut-and-come-again broccoli, allowing for a long harvest window.  Another advantage from a disease avoidance perspective is the short maturity time (the time from planting seeds to having harvestable shoots) of around 40 days!  For perspective, a “regular” heading broccoli has a maturity of around 60 day, lots more time for problems to happen.  In the same growing conditions described above for cabbage, ‘Burgundy’ performed amazingly well for me, growing strong, healthy stalks, large, unblemished leaves and an abundance of purple shoots with a nice flavor profile!

If you want to enjoy homegrown broccoli and cabbage but disease pressures have made your previous efforts unproductive, give ‘Capture’ Cabbage and ‘Burgundy’ Broccoli a try!  These two selections have made it easier than ever to enjoy unique, homegrown, healthy cruciferous veggies.  Keep these and other quality, disease-resistant cultivars in mind when planning your winter garden in 2020!