- Episode 09 Cabbage
Episode 09 Cabbage
An "all-rounder" on a dinner table
Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, broccoli, and cauliflower all originated from Brassica oleracea L., a cruciferous plant found in the Mediterranean region. It is surprising that such a broad variety of vegetables have the same origin.
Here, we will focus on the cabbages. Whether we are talking about "asazuke" (a lightly-salted Japanese pickle), shredded cabbage, sauerkraut, rolled cabbage, or coleslaw, Sakata Seed Corporation has always been instrumental in developments related to the cabbage, the world's most indispensable vegetable.
In the Edo-period(1603-1868), non-round cabbages such as kale were imported to Japan. Thereafter, at the beginning of the Meiji era(1868-1912), the generic head variety of cabbages was introduced to Japan from overseas. As this variety prefers cold temperatures, it was originally cultivated in the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions. From the Taisho era(1912-1926) to the beginning of the Showa era(1926-1989), breeding of imported varieties was undertaken, which led to the development of summer planted/winter harvested varieties and over winter production spring cabbage.
In 1940, just before Japan involved in the Second World War, the F1 cabbage "Suteki Kanran" was announced. It was developed by Suteki Shinohara, a Sakata employee, based on the then cutting edge F1 cross theory, ("Suteki", which means “nice” in Japanese, refers to the man’s name and not the adjective). This variety came to be not only the first F1 cabbage, but also the first F1 cruciferous plant introduced on the market, by a process of trial and error. Though this ground-breaking variety was announced, it did not make its official appearance as a breed because Japan became involved in the Second World War the following year.
The post-war history of the F1 cabbage begins with "Kinpai," which was announced in 1956. Riding on the wings of the fame of the pre-war, F1 All Double Petunia, "Victorious Mixed", the company proactively nurtured the "Sakata, renowned for flowers" image.
At that time, at our firm's experimental breeding station in Chigasaki, most associates below the director specialized in flowers, and there were few vegetable specialists. In this solitary battle for vegetable breeding, Kinpai was much appreciated for being highly uniform and easy to produce; thus, it received the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries award. It then became our representative spring cabbage, and our breeding director proudly started to promote Sakata as a high quality producer of vegetable seeds.
"Choose Sakata for spring cabbage seeds, was " the motto that was created during the development of "Kinpai", and soon after, the "Kinkei201" and "Kinshun" varieties were introduced. The spring cabbage's ease of production and taste were highly appreciated in its major production areas such as Chiba, Choshi, Kanagawa, Miura, Aichi Prefecture, and Atsumi. It became the company's mainline variety.
Then, in the 21st century, spring varieties such as "shinran", "ranten", and "touran" that were free of many of the problems associated with the "hiratama" cabbage, which, though robust and long-lasting, was considered inferior to the spring cabbage in terms of fitness for human consumption. Though each varied in terms of cropping type etc., their flavor was similar, if not superior to spring varieties; this made them a popular product.
In 2010, "Seirin" was the first variety created by private industry to be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry , and there seems to be no way to stop its momentum.
Overseas, in 1965, "Savoy King" won a prize, and in 1969, "Stonehead" and "Harvester Queen" won prizes at the All-America Selections. This sparked the development of other popular varieties such as "Hercules," and "Blue Vantage," as well as a wider recognition of Sakata's vegetable seeds in the US.
Furthermore, in the 1980s, "Scorpio" was developed in the Philippines, and in the late 1990s in China, "Kibo" became a big hit, and Sakata contributed to their promotion.
For Sakata associates who have dedicated their lives to the cabbage, shredded cabbage and coleslaw should no longer be thought of as playing a mere supporting role at dinner tables: the cabbage is the star of the show.