Cabbage

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Many consider cabbage to be sort of a poor relative to broccoli. Those who study such things think that kale, broccoli and cabbage were once basically the same plant. Early gardeners selected for different characteristics, which is how we got where we are today. Cabbage pretty much a cool-weather plant. If I try to grow summer cabbage – at least in my summers – it will usually just sort of poke along in the heat and then finally head up come fall (sometimes). So cole slaw, that quintessential barbeque summer side dish, doesn’t usually show up on my table in July. My family likes cole slaw the rest of the year, which is when the cabbages taste the best, anyway.

Growing Cabbage

Cabbage is a heavy eater and especially fond of nitrogen. It’s more prone to diseases if you overwater or try to grow it out of season. Choose your varieties carefully and give it what it wants – coolish weather, soil with lots of nutrients and moderate water on a consistent basis. Cabbage grown in this manner is much less susceptible to bugs and diseases. Most varieties are also very hardy, so it makes a good choice to winter over and harvest from the garden for fresh veggies.

Dividing Cabbage

You can grow cabbage from seed, but here’s another interesting way to keep your cabbage patch going. William Woys Weaver is another (and much better known) fan of old-fashioned heirloom vegetables and fruits. Weaver divides the cabbages in quarters and plants the cuttings. Choose the best plants – look for healthy plants, reasonable size, even growth and good taste. You can cut off a leaf or two to sample that last characteristic. Slice the plants into quarters from top to bottom. Make sure each quarter has good roots. Dip the roots in hormone rooting compound or honey water (see below) and plant in sand. Plant these in the spring just as you would seedling cabbages.Weaver says: “ This process can be continued from year to year, thus perpetuating and increasing the cabbages with the best traits. This technique is especially useful where several varieties are being grown together and there is a definite need to avoid crosses.”

Honey as Rooting Hormone

You needn’t use rooting hormone, either, if you have some honey around. Raw organic honey is the best choice, but any honey will do. Mix three parts boiling water to one part honey; stir well and put in a sealed glass container. Let cool. When you’re ready to plant some root cuttings, just put them in the honey water for a few minutes and then plant.

Cabbage Odor

I must confess that although I like cabbage, I really don’t like sauerkraut. I’ve tried it made the conventional way, as well as fermented, and it just doesn’t do anything for me. If your tastes are different, make fermented sauerkraut. Fermenting is a great way to preserve this veggie. Some people don’t like the odor of cooked cabbage, produced by the sulfur compounds in the vegetable. It’s more of a problem if you cook it a long time, especially if you boil it – a quick sauté or stir-fry rarely causes problems.

Varieties

Nobody in my family likes savoy cabbages (also known as Napa or Chinese cabbage), so I have no opinion on them. I’ve found these to be good varieties of regular cabbage:

  • Brunswick – originally from Germany, this has been around since 1924. It’s a good winter cabbage and an excellent keeper.
  • Copenhagen Market – as you might expect, this is a Danish cabbage, although it is believed to be a descendant of the German cabbage Ditmarscher. It was introduced to the US in 1909. These are big cabbages, often weighing about four pounds. It’s an excellent keeper and one that performs well in warmer areas.
  • Early Jersey Wakefield – pointed rather than round-headed. It will overwinter, but really dislikes heat. It probably came from England – which may be why it likes cool weather – and was introduced in 1868 by the Peter Henderson Seed Company. It’s not a very good keeper, compared to the first two on the list.
  • Golden Acre – I don’t know where the gold part comes from, as it’s a nice pastel green. Another early cabbage and one of the best-flavored. It hit the market in the 1920s.
  • Red Acre – this name makes more sense, as the cabbage is a reddish purple. I can’t find any history on the variety and don’t know if the two Acre cabbages are related.
  • Mammoth Red Rock – good flavor, tight heads and very little core. It’s a good keeper, and the combination of taste and keeping qualities has kept it around since 1889.

If I could only have one cabbage, it would be Golden Acre, mostly for the flavor. In a colder climate, I would probably go with Brunswick, as it’s a better winter cabbage. One of the things I have noticed through the years is that red cabbages tend to store better than the green varieties. If your garden and storage space are limited, you might want to take this into consideration.

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We’re Ba-c-c-K!

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No, we didn’t do anything wrong, nor was it a shady conspiracy. Apparently one of the behind-the-scenes plug-ins developed a belly ache. When Ell was finally able to actually talk to a live body, said body told her a line of code was the problem. When the plug-in went haywire, they simply shut the site down. Said body also said they couldn’t do anything about it. Except then said body told her they might be able to do something if we coughed up some coin. Wrong thing to say to Ell. She insisted on contact info for someone higher up the food chain.

Ell got the holiday mess out of the way first, because she was reasonably sure the fix would mean hours of sitting on phone hold. Then she tapped a techie buddy in Ohio for expert advice. They set up a conference call, which took a bit more doing given the time zone difference. Next they sat through the two and a half hours of hold time while working on other projects. Once they finally got through to the right person, she filled him in on what she was told the first time.

“Marshall” expressed horror, dismay and indignation. He then had to sit through a few pointed questions. Why would you send an email about a bad line of code couched in Techese? Why would you not check back with the blog owner to see if the problem had been resolved? Why would you assume the average blog owner was tech-savvy enough to translate Techese? What kind of a shop are you running when the help desk gives completely inaccurate advice? There were a few more, but at the point, “Marshall” caved.

So, the blog is back up and I’ll be getting things up to speed as time allows. It’s nice to be here again.

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Carrot Recipes

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Easy Carrot Recipes

  • Cut carrots into matchsticks or coins. Cook in a little boiling water until just tender. Slather with butter. You can also sprinkle with some chopped herbs – parsley is good.
  • Carrot juice, especially when well-iced, is a delicious alternative drink. You can also add a little zing with a bit of lemon juice if it’s too sweet.
  • Mix up your favorite dip and slice the carrots in long diagonals for scooping.
  • Roast carrots in olive or coconut oil, alone or with other root vegetables. Cook until they start to brown slightly – they’ll be sweeter.

Chinese Carrot Salad

  • 2 cups shredded Napa cabbage (although any kind of cabbage works fine)
  • 1 pound jicama, peeled and shredded
  • 2 cups shredded daikon radish
  • 2 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and shredded
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 1 firm pear, shredded
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Place the cabbage, jicama, radish, apple, carrot, pear, and cilantro into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil, orange juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Toss until evenly blended and serve.

Spicy Carrot Salad

  • 10 ounces shredded carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Toss carrots, garlic, parsley, peppers, lemon juice and oil in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fermented Ginger Carrots

  • 1 pound carrots shredded
  • 1-2 inch piece of ginger peeled and shredded or grated
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 rounded teaspoon sea salt

Shred the carrots and ginger in a food processor and dump into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Mix thoroughly with your hands, squeezing the carrots as you go. Let the carrots sit for 15 min before moving to the next step. Divide the carrots evenly between two pint-sized (16 oz) mason jars. Press the carrots down firmly until you’ve removed as much empty space as possible. There may be some natural carrot liquid at this point but not enough to cover the veggies. Place a small 4 oz jar or clean weight on top of the carrots. Mix the remaining salt into the water. Fill the remainder of the space with a little bit of the brine solution. The carrots should be completely submerged. Repeat with the other jar. Save extra brine in the fridge because you might need it during the fermentation process. Cover the jars with cheesecloth and place them on a rimmed plate to catch any bubbling over. Place in a dark spot (like a pantry or cupboard) and check daily to make sure the water level has not dropped down to the carrots. If it has, pour a bit more brine on top. Fermentation time varies from 7-14 days; start checking at five days. Store tightly covered in the fridge…it will last for a few months!

Carrot Jam

  • 5 cups carrots, peeled and grated
  • finely grated rind and strained juice of 2 lemons
  • finely grated rind and strained juice of 1 orange
  • 4 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg

Put the carrots, juices, zest and sugar into a preserving pan, and stir. Tie the cinnamon and cloves into a small circle of muslin, tie with kitchen string and place in the middle of the carrots. Leave overnight to macerate. Pour over about 3 ½ cups water, add the nutmeg, warm and stir until any sugar crystals have dissolved. Bring to the boil. Boil until it reaches its setting point, about 30-40 minutes; test to see if it’s ready using a chilled saucer. Carefully fish out the spice bag. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and cover with lids while still hot. Store in a cool, dry place and use within one year.

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