The word cabbage is a derivation of the French word caboche, a colloquial term for "head." The cabbage family ­ of which Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kale are all members ­ is wide and varied. Cabbage itself comes in many forms ­ the shapes can be flat, conical or round, the heads compact or loose, and the leaves curly or plain.


CABBAGE, the oldest and most widely grown vegetable of the Brassica group, belonging to the mustard family. The other members of this group include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, and turnips. Cabbage is distinguished from them by the short, petioled leaves and later development of a compact head, by compressed stem and leaves, the latter developing from within but swelling outward. Selective breeding has produced several distinct types of cabbage: early, midseason, and late; green and purple; large and small heads; flat, oval, conical and globular; savoy types; and those with either smooth or crumpled leaves.

Cabbage is a hardy vegetable that grows especially well in fertile soils. There are various shades of green available, as well as red or purple types. Head shape varies from the standard round to flattened or pointed. Most varieties have smooth leaves, but the Savoy types have crinkly textured leaves.

Varieties in Kenya


Large round heads with remarkable sales appeal. Amongst the most popular for home and market gardening. A very productive strain; small to medium plants with short stems. Matures early and should be harvested immediately as it is prone to cracking if left for too long.


One of the finest cabbages for African conditions. Has conical shaped head. Crisp and sweet. High market demand. Plants are large and grow well under high rainfall conditions, otherwise they require liberal watering. Early maturing of small to medium quality cabbage.



One of the best F1 cabbages on fresh market processing industry. Heavy yielder of top quality heads. It has blue green color and a thick waxy layer. Has strong rooting and tolerates Black rot diseases. Resistance to heat and bolting. Spacing adjustment results in weights of uniform heads between 2 to 7kg. Has good resistance to splitting and keeps well after harvesting.




A Medium sized cabbage with round
grey green heads of 3 - 4 kgs which mature
70 -80 days transplanting. This variety stands
for a long time without splitting. Extremely good internal quality. Sweet flavour.


Large round heads with remarkable sales appeal. Amongst the most popular for home and market gardening. A very productive strain; small to medium plants with short stems. Matures early and should be harvested immediately as it is prone to cracking if left for too long.


One of the most important chinese cabbage variety.
Uniform and vigorous, producing pale green loaf like heads with pure white core, widely adapted will produce abundance of leaves even where other cabbage varieties will not grow.
Slightly pungent in flavour. Easy to grow but prone to bolting below 15 degrees celsius.



Cabbage is easy to grow if you select suitable varieties and practice proper culture and insect management. Always regarded as a good source of vitamins, cabbage recently has been shown to have disease-preventive properties as well.


Space plants 12 to 24 inches apart in the row, depending upon the variety and the size of head desired. The closer the spacing, the smaller the heads. Early varieties are usually planted 12 inches apart in all directions. Early varieties produce 1 to 3 pound heads and later varieties produce 4 to 8 pound heads. Sow cabbage seed 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Keep the seeds moist and thin or transplant the seedlings to the desired spacing. The plants removed may be transplanted to another row or flat.


Use planting fertilizer when transplanting and side-dress with nitrogen fertilizer when the plants are half grown. Cultivate shallowly to keep down weeds. Ample soil moisture is necessary throughout the growing season to produce good cabbage. Irrigation is especially important to help the young plants withstand the intense sunlight and heat of summer and to supply the developing heads with sufficient water to develop quickly.


Cabbage can be harvested anytime after the heads form. For highest yield, cut the cabbage heads when they are solid (firm to hand pressure) but before they crack or split. When heads are mature, a sudden heavy rain may cause heads to crack or split wide open. The exposed internal tissue soon becomes unusable. Harvest and salvage split heads as soon as possible after they are discovered.

In addition to harvesting the mature heads of the cabbage planted in the spring, you can harvest a later crop of small heads (cabbage sprouts). These sprouts develop on the stumps of the cut stems. Cut as close to the lower surface of the head as possible, leaving the loose outer leaves intact. Buds that grow in the axils of these leaves (the angle between the base of the leaf and the stem above it) later form sprouts. The sprouts develop to 2 to 4 inches in diameter and should be picked when firm. Continue control of cabbage worms and other pests. If this control cannot be maintained, remove and destroy or compost the stumps, because they serve as a breeding ground for diseases and insect pests.

Common problems

Yellow or fusarium wilt is a relatively common disease that causes the leaves of plants to wilt and die. The first sign of the disease is yellowing and browning of the lower leaves. The plants are stunted before wilting occurs. Grow yellows-resistant (YR) or yellows-tolerant varieties. Most modern hybrids have this tolerance or resistance bred into them.

Blackleg and black rot are two diseases that cause severe losses. The plants may be stunted, turn yellow and die. Blackleg is named for the black cankers on the stem. The taproot often rots away. Black rot can be recognized by large, V-shaped, yellow-to-brown areas in the leaves, starting at the leaf edge. The veins turn black. Soft rot usually follows black-rot infection.

Control is essentially the same for blackleg and black rot. Both diseases are spread by seed, transplants and insects. Buy seed that has been hot-water treated to kill the disease organisms. Do not buy transplants that are wilted, are an unhealthy shade of green, or have black spots on the stems or leaves.

When you find diseased plants in the garden, collect the leaves, stems and tops; and burn or dispose of them. Do not put diseased plants into the compost pile. Avoid cultural practices (crowding, overwatering, planting in poorly drained soil and inadequate insect control) that support the disease organisms of black rot and blackleg. If possible, grow black-rot-resistant varieties.

Splitting is caused by the pressure of excessive water taken up after the heads are solid. Cutting the roots (spading on two sides of the plant) or breaking the roots (lifting and twisting the head to one side) can often reduce excessive splitting or bursting, but it also damages the plant and requires that the head be harvested relatively soon.

Cabbage plants "bolt" (form premature seedstalks) when they are exposed to low temperatures (35 to 45 degrees F) for extended periods. Such chilling may happen if plants are set out too early or if an unseasonable blast of cold assaults the garden. After the plants have stems as large as a pencil, they are subject to this "cold conditioning," that initiates the flowering response.

Non-heading varieties of cabbage (similar to flowering kale) have been developed for ornamental uses. They have colorful white, pink or red rosettes of leaves surrounded by green or purple outer leaves. Most colorful during cool fall weather, they should be started in early summer to midsummer and set out with fall and winter plantings of regular, heading varieties of cabbage. Flowering cabbage (and flowering kale) are edible as well as ornamental.

Swellings and distorted roots on stunted, wilted plants may be symptoms of clubroot disease. This disease is caused by a fungus that remains in the garden soils for many years once it becomes established. It is spread by movement of infested soil and infected transplants. Other related cole crops (like broccoli and cauliflower) also may become infected.. If, in fact, you have clubroot in a location, destroy infected plant parts (including the roots) and for at least 4 years avoid planting any member of the cabbage family there, including radishes, turnips and ornamental relatives of cabbage.

Nutritional Value

As with broccoli, cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable and may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer including colorectal cancers. Cabbage is also high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber. Other substantial nutrients in a half cup cooked cabbage include the following.

Nutrition Facts (1/2 cup cooked green cabbage)

Calories 16
Dietary fiber 2.9 grams
Carbohydrates 3.6 mg
Vitamin C 18.2 mg

Sources of cabbage in Kenya.

Cabbage is grown in virtually all areas of Kenya but commercial cabbage comes from Kiambu, Nyeri, Muranga, Nakuru, Nyandarua, Narok.








This standard applies to headed cabbages grown from varieties (cultivars) of Brassica oleracea L. var. capitata L. (including red cabbages and pointed cabbages) and from Brassica oleracea L. var. bullata DC and var. subauda L. (savoy cabbages), supplied fresh to the consumer, cabbages for industrial processing being excluded.




The purpose of the standard is to define the quality requirements for headed cabbages after preparation and packaging.


A.         Minimum requirements:

In all classes, subject to the special provisions for each class and the tolerances allowed, the headed cabbages should be:

-           intact,

-           fresh in appearance,

-           not burst, showing no signs of flower development.

-           sound, produce affected by rotting or deterioration such as to make it unfit for consumption is excluded,

-           free of bruises and injury,

-           free from insects and/or other parasites,

     1591/87        -           free of damage due to frost,

-           clean, practically free of any visible  foreign matter,

-           free of abnormal external moisture,

-           free of any foreign smell and/or taste.

The stem should be cut slightly below the lowest point of leaf growth; the leaves should remain firmly attached, and the cut should be clean.


The condition of the headed cabbages must be such as to enable them:

-           to withstand transport and handling, and

-           to arrive in satisfactory condition at  the place of destination.

B.         Classification


Headed cabbages are classified into two classes defined below:




(i)         Class I:


Headed cabbages graded into this class should be of good quality and possess all the characteristics typical of the variety.  They should be compact, having regard to the species.


Headed cabbages, according to the variety, must have firmly attached leaves.  Store headed cabbages may have some of their outer leaves removed.


Green Savoy headed cabbages and early headed cabbages, taking into account their variety, must be properly trimmed, but in doing so a number of leaves may be left for protection.


Green headed cabbages may be slightly frosted.


The following are admitted:

-           small cracks in the outer leaves,

-           slight bruising and light trimming of the   outer leaves, provided that it does not   affect the good condition of the produce.

(ii)         Class II:

This class includes headed cabbages which do not qualify for inclusion in Class I, but meet the minimum requirements specified above.  They may differ from headed cabbages in Class I in the following ways:


-           they may have cracks in the outer leaves,

-           more of their outer leaves may be  removed,

-           they may have larger bruises and the outer leaves may be more extensively trimmed,

-           they may be less compact.



Sizing is determined by the net weight.  This must not be less than 350 grams per unit.


Sizing is compulsory for headed cabbages presented in packages.  In that case, the weight of the heaviest head in any one package must not be more than double the weight of the lightest head.  When the weight of the heaviest head is equal to or less than 2 kilograms the difference between the heaviest and the lightest head may be up to 1 kilogram.




Tolerances in respect of quality and size are allowed in each package or in each lot in the case of headed cabbages transported in bulk for produce not satisfying the requirements for the class indicated.


A.         Quality Tolerances

(i)         Class I:


10% by number or weight of headed cabbages not satisfying the requirements for the class, but meeting the requirements for Class II or, exceptionally, coming within the tolerances for that class.


(ii)         Class II:

10% by number or weight of headed cabbages not satisfying the requirements of the class, or the minimum requirements, but excluding headed cabbages visibly affected by rotting or any other deterioration rendering them unfit for consumption.


B.         Size Tolerances


For all classes: 10% by number or weight of headed cabbages not meeting the specified requirements as regards:


-           uniformity,

-           minimum size.


However, no head may weigh less than 300 grams.




A.         Uniformity


The contents of each package or lot, if transported in bulk, must contain only headed cabbages of the same origin, variety and quality.


The headed cabbages classed in Class I must be uniform in shape and colour.


The visible part of the contents of the package or lot must be representative of the entire contents.


B.         Packaging


The headed cabbages must be packed in such a way as to ensure that they are suitably protected.  They may be delivered packed or in bulk.




The materials used inside the package must be clean and of a quality such as to avoid causing any external or internal damage to the produce.  The use of materials and particularly of paper or stamps bearing trade specifications is allowed provided that the printing or labelling has been done with a non-toxic ink or glue.


Packages, or lots if the produce is transported in bulk, must be free of all foreign matter.




1.         For headed cabbages presented in packages, each package must bear the following particulars in letters grouped on the same side, legibly and indelibly marked and visible from the outside.


A.         Identification

888/97         Packer and/or Dispatcher:  Name and address or officially issued or accepted code mark.  However, in the case where a code mark is used, the reference “Packer and/or dispatcher (or equivalent abbreviations)” has to be indicated in close connection with the code mark.


B.         Nature of produce

'White headed cabbages', etc, if the contents are not visible from the outside.


C.         Origin of produce

Country of origin and, optionally, district where grown, or national, regional or local place name.


D.         Commercial specifications

-           Class

-           Weight or number of units.


E.         Official control mark (optional)

2.         For headed cabbages transported in bulk (loaded directly into a vehicle or vehicle compartment), the above particulars must appear on a document accompanying the goods or on a notice placed in a visible position inside the vehicle.