Charleston Wakefield Cabbage

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This form of the conical-headed Charleston Wakefield cabbage was developed by F. W. Towles at Yonges Island, SC, in the years 1888-1891. It was larger in size and weight than its ancestor, the popular Jersey Wakefield cabbage. The Wakefield cabbage family was developed in England from the German Filderkraut, the classic sauerkraut variety, in the early 19th century. Charleston Wakefield has the culinary versatility expected of a historic cabbage: its sweet flavour made it suitable for the preparation of salads and, being a descendant of the more famous German variety of sauerkraut, it ‘performs’ well in fermentation. In its heyday between 1900 and 1925, Charleston Wakefield cabbage was almost a monoculture in the Carolina Lowcountry, whereas current production is small-scale, often organic. The decline in market popularity of Charleston Wakefield cabbage can be entirely attributed to the inconvenience of its conical head in packaging and shipping. Like many head cabbages, it is vulnerable to pests: various worms (imported cabbageworm, cabbage bug, diamondback moth caterpillar), harlequin bugs, cabbage worms, aphids and flea beetles are the main insect problems. The most common diseases are black rot, stem thread, damp, downy mildew, Alternaria leaf blight and watery soft rot. Black rot is the most destructive disease. However, it must be said that Charleston Wakefield is no more susceptible to these problems than any other heirloom variety. The current favourite market varieties in the region – Bravo, Market Prize, Rio Verde, Savoy Express, Tropic Giant and Green Jewels – have only modest extra resistance to these problems endemic to southern fields.

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Nominated by:Nat Bradford