chinese cabbage

How to grow chinese cabbage

One of the benefits of growing your own veggies is the variety of plants from all over the world you can combine in your own backyard. You can travel from continent to continent with each step through the veggies you choose to plant. Today we are travelling East by planting Chinese cabbage. ‘Chinese cabbage’ is used as a broad term for a few types of cabbage (including bok choy) but Chinese cabbage as we South Africans know it is a variety called Michihili Chinese cabbage. Its crinkled green leaves cover a white interior that can be used in soups or stews, or as a more vitamin-rich replacement for lettuce in salads. It is a quick grower ready for harvest in 2 – 3 months, making it perfect for the mildly impatient vegetable gardener.

chinese cabbage

Chinese Cabbage Planting and Care

With a regular schedule of seed planting from autumn through to winter, you can have a consistent supply of Chinese cabbage for those hearty winter soups and fresh spring salads. Rather than planting one giant batch of cabbage, plant a few seeds every 3 – 4 weeks.

Plant the seeds straight into the garden about 50cm apart in a full-sun position. If you have a spot in your garden where legumes – like peas or beans – were previously grown, plant the cabbage there as the soil will have a higher nitrogen content. In areas that experience winter rain, elevate the soil slightly before planting. Keep the soil consistently moist, but not wet, and weed-free in the early stages of growth.

Fertilise regularly along with your other veggies and watch out for pests like aphids and cabbage loopers. If you suspect pests are present use an organic control spray or cover the plant with a screen to deter bugs. Your Chinese cabbage should be ready to harvest in about 8 weeks. You can harvest the whole head once it is full and solid or remove individual leaves as they are needed. They can store for up to a month or be left in the garden to flower and produce new seeds for next year’s crop!

Chinese Cabbage Kimchi Recipe

Fermented cabbage may not sound very appetising, but pair it with a few other veggies and spices and you have a delicious Korean staple. You can find kimchi on almost every table at every meal in Korea, eaten either by itself as a side or used to flavour other dishes. It requires a few ingredients not normally found in your typical supermarket, but the complex flavour profile is worth digging for those few things you can’t find. This recipe is the perfect way to preserve your leftover cabbage and make it last for a few extra months in the fridge.

For Your Chinese Cabbage Kimchi You will need

  • 1 head of cabbage, cut into wedges
  • ½ cup non-iodated salt (iodine can inhibit fermentation)
  • 6 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce/shrimp paste (replace with a few teaspoons of water for a vegan option)
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
  • 2 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped


  1. Place the cabbage in a bowl, adding the salt and enough water to cover the cabbage. Leave to sit for 2 hours.
  2. Rinse with cold water and set aside to drain for 20 minutes.
  3. Mix together garlic, ginger and fish sauce/shrimp paste/water in a food processor. Stir in the gochugaru, the amount depending on your spice tolerance.
  4. Add the spice mixture, radishes, green onion and cabbage to a bowl, squeezing out the remaining water from the leaves as they go in.
  5. Mix thoroughly until all the vegetables are coated. Use gloves for this step to avoid burning or staining your fingers.
  6. Pack the mixture tightly into a jar, leaving a bit of space at the top. Let it stand at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 2 – 3 days. Leave it on a plate to catch any brine that seeps out the top.
  7. After it has fermented, transfer the jar to the fridge. You can start eating immediately, but it tastes best after about a week or two
The Gardener