The Story of a Seed: Nozaki Chinese Cabbage

by Tusha Yakovleva

Revolutionary seeds, banned art, and a rare cabbage indispensable for kimchi.

nozaki_chinese_cabbage_1What makes Nozaki Chinese Cabbage Stand Out: Nozaki Chinese Cabbage - a Napa-type variety - will keep you nourished in the leanest months. The cabbages, which quickly grow a small, compact head with frilly outer leaves, are not only an excellent winter storage crop, but are also the main ingredient in one of the world's most beloved fermented foods: kim chi, which lasts for months in the refrigerator and enlivens any winter dish. Their preference for cool weather and quick growth habit also make Nozaki Chinese Cabbage a great option for spring sowings and early season harvests (in warmer climates). Plus, this hard-to-find, open-pollinated variety was bred by Seed rEvolution Now (read on to learn more), so by growing our organic seeds you are supporting seed sharing and knowledge for future generations of growers. 


The History of Nozaki Chinese Cabbage: Nozaki Chinese Cabbage seeds came to us from Steve Peters, a powerful seed educator and breeder. Through his consulting group - Seed rEvolution Now - Steve independently breeds varieties on the farm, while continuing age old traditions, teaching disappearing skills, and sharing seeds so they can be passed to future generations. Steve develops Open Pollinated varieties that are suitable for farmers. As he explains, “Many market farmers still prefer to grow hybrids, as they often have higher yields, more uniformity, and improved crop quality. Hybrids, however, will not produce true-to-type seed, making them unsuitable for on-farm seed saving. As a result, most commercial farmers have become completely reliant upon the seed companies to provide the genetics they need. This is a major reason for the seed industry's focus on hybrids and other proprietary seeds, such as GMOs.” Home gardeners also benefit from these breeding efforts, as varieties most valued by farmers are generally ones that produce reliable yields, grow quickly, and can stand strong against pests or disease. You can read more about Seed rEvolution Now’s work here and Steve’s thoughts on the issues of corporately-owned seeds here


How to Grow, Harvest, and Eat: Nozaki Chinese Cabbage likes cool temperatures best. Direct sow in the fall or extremely early spring. Chinese cabbage bolts easily when exposed to the warm temperatures of summer, so be sure to start it early or wait to plant a fall crop when it is much easier to grow and provide shade if the weather is hot. Chinese cabbage is ready for harvest when the plant is about 18’’ tall, with white stems and dense heads. Slugs love it--be sure to patrol often, use bait, or edge beds with copper. Harvest by cutting the base, right below the surface. Nozaki Chinese Cabbage is great in salad, soup, stir fry, and perfect in kim chi, which is made by salting the cabbage until it wilts, then fermenting for a few weeks with ginger, scallions, garlic, and hot peppers.

For seed savers, keep in mind that this is Brassica rapa and won’t cross with broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, etc.

img_5223_2_About the Art and Artist: The artwork for this pack is a traditional Chinese brush painting by artist Zhong-hua Lu. Zhong-hua Lu is a native of Shandong Province, China, and has been an American Citizen since 2002. Zhong-hua learned to paint from his father as a child and continued to practice throughout the Cultural Revolution when traditional arts were banned. Zhong-hua Lu continued to paint in secret. Zhong-hua now lives with his wife Ellen in rural upstate New York where he daily practices the traditional Chinese arts of Qigong, Chinese brush painting, and Tai Chi. Zhong-hua was a New York State Foundation for the Arts fellowship finalist in Folk Arts in 2015 and currently teaches at the Capital District Art Center.