The crop is harvested when the heads attain their full size and become firm and hard but tender. The colour of the head is sometimes used as a maturity index. A fully developed head has a lighter shade of green. The crop for pickling should be harvested when the cover leaves curl back, and the white leaves beneath are exposed. If harvesting is delayed, the heads may split and rots may occur while the heads harvested early may be soft.
The crop for the fresh market is harvested by hand with a knife or sickle. Cabbage for storage and/or processing is harvested at once mechanically. The heads should be cut off in such a way that a few of the large, open wrapper leaves are left for protection around the heads. Harvesting should be such that bruising of the heads is avoided as this makes them unattractive. Most of the stem should be left on the head if the crop is to be stored.
Harvested produce should always be removed from direct sunlight and transported to the packing shed as soon as possible. Cabbage and leafy greens are particularly susceptible to wilting and other damage from high temperatures. When there is a delay of more than an hour or two between harvest and
packing, a water drench or spray arrangement can help prevent dehydration and overheating.
Sorting and grading
The injured leaves should be removed.
Cabbage is packed in mesh pockets or sold loose.
The optimum storage temperature for cabbage is 0 °C and relative humidity of 90 % to 95 %. Cabbage to be stored should be mature and disease-free and should not have been exposed to prolonged frost or cold. Further trimming may be necessary, mainly to remove the dis-coloured butt upon removal from storage.
Care must be taken that trucks are not overloaded on the bottom layers of produce are crushed.