Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mon petit chou-Cabbage, I love you!

I really like vegetables.

If I am faced with the prospect of a meal or snack, veggies usually figure prominently in what I create.

Of course this might seem a given because I grow vegetables for a living.   They are always here and they are always fresh.  I love popping out to the field and pulling a carrot, munching on a pepper or tomato or chewing a kale leaf or broccoli floret.

But surprising, I do know people that grow vegetables, and don't like or eat what they grow.  Seems odd....how can you promote what you do if you don't like it?
  Interesting but not the point of this at all.

The point is cabbage.  And I do grow a pointed variety! It is called Kalibos and it is a marvellous red conical cabbage.  Lots of varieties exist, but I know cabbage is one crop some folks tend to not bother with.  Why would you?  It is so cheap in the stores, and in your garden it can tie up space for the whole season.

Taste is the reason I grow cabbage.  Fresh cabbage just out of the garden is not your grocery store cabbage.  It is sweet and juicy and delectable. It is one of the reason vegetables are my favourite food to eat. It is" cut- off- a- slab -and- crunch- it "good.

 I realize most people don't eat cabbage this way. They shred it, or cook it or do something with it other than just enjoy it straight up.  But homegrown cabbage is up to that challenge.  It can be that good.

I grew only 3 varieties this year.  My Seed Savers Exchange yearbook refers to 48 different varieties that it's members offered this year.  Savoys and loose heads, red , greens, conicals and in betweens.

I picked Kalibos, Couve Tronchuda (a looseheaded Portuguese heirloom) and Drumhead Savoy.  Despite the fact I limited my varieties, I still managed to come up with a heck of a lot of cabbage .  Which can only be a good thing.

Yesterday was my day to yank them from the ground roots and all.

Even after selling quite a few, I still found myself with lots. Storing them properly is even more important, so I can get them to remain firm and crisp throughout the winter.

Instead of cutting the heads off, I pull them out by the roots.  This is preferable for two reasons. Quite simply they store better, and they also are ready to produce seed in the spring if the root is still attached, if that is the direction I want to go.

To store them I layer mine in barrels or old garbage cans with straw.  I try to ensure they don't touch, and that I leave a little bit of dirt on their roots.

If seed is what I am interested in, I replant my cabbages, root and all in the spring.  I cut an "x" in the head, and from there the seed stalk shoots up.  I allow the seed pods to dry on the plant, and make sure I separate out different varieties of the cole family so cross pollination doesn't occur.  It's fun-try it!

Cabbages are pretty easy to grow.  They tend to be heavy feeders and appreciate that extra scoop of manure or compost you add to their planting hole.  They can be planted anytime from April to early July, and I usually start from transplants I have seeded myself 6 weeks earlier.

They should toot along just fine unless the inevitable happens....and it will.  Those pretty little cabbage butterflies will find them, deposit their little eggs.... and voila!  Chomp, chomp-the tender young greens of your cabbages are disappearing.  You can cover them with agricultural fabric, effectively blocking them out IF your fabric has no points of entry, but you can also just hand pick the worms (loopers) until you have them under control.  Then feed them to your chickens or ducks, squish 'em, or drown them in detergent water.  They can completely destroy your cole family crops, so get the jump on them!

My friend Helen was here tonight, and she shared a little thing her Hungarian mom did with cabbage when they were young.
Fry up some finely shredded cabbage in butter until it is lightly browned, season with salt and toss with freshly cooked pasta.  Yum-it's good!  I actually did it for supper tonight and added a bit of onion too.  Easy- squeasy!

I'm thinking too that a little sauerkraut is on the agenda.  Although traditionally made with green cabbage, I'm going to see how I do with red.  Stay posted for further adventures with cabbage!

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