What an overlooked vegetable this is – partly because the green cabbages you see at the store are the size of basketballs, and you think “What will I do with that?” And too, self-important chefs don’t keep company with this (ahem) ordinary vegetable. Did you ever hear of “Cabbage a l’orange” or Cabbage de la Maison?” Of course not.
So I’m going to start this entry with a recipe, and then you decide whether to grow this lovely member of the brassica family.
Janet’s Three-Day Slaw
One head of cabbage, shredded (for variety, mix a small purple and half a green head. (Make the produce mgr. cut it for you.)
8 oz. more or less of pimientos, in small pieces
1 onion, chopped or thinly sliced
1 green pepper, chopped or thinly sliced
½ cup honey
1 cup vinegar (white or cider, depending on your taste)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. sugar
In a large bowl or pot, toss the cabbage, pimiento, onion, and green pepper. Set aside. Mix the honey, vinegar, salt, olive oil, and sugar in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Let this cool, then pour over the cabbage mixure. Cover (plastic wrap is fine) and leave it in the fridge for three days, tossing daily.
Cole slaw is far more nutritious than salad, and goes wonderfully with chicken, fish, ribs, or any number of other dishes.
Another note: as with other brassicas, overcooked cabbage gives off unpleasant odors and quickly loses its nutritional value. Cook briefly until barely tender. Cook corned beef all day if you like, but don’t add the cabbage until later.
Now, as to growing, cabbage can be planted much the same as broccoli or brussels sprouts: same needs, same culture, same pests. But spacing is different. To get smaller, tastier, more delicately-flavored cabbages, space them 8-12 inches apart, and harvest them small, less than 6 inches across. Set out one batch of seedlings in spring (remember, they don’t mind cold) for harvest 60-70 days later. This crop grows quickly, so the heads can be prone to cracking if heavy rains (or irrigation) follows a dry period. Tomatoes are the same way. It doesn’t affect taste, but you can’t sell them.
Also grow a late-season crop for storage. They mature more slowly, but can remain in the ground much longer, allowing for flexibility in the harvest, and are far less bothered by pests. I sow late-season brassicas outside in flats, and germination occurs within two days usually.
Tip: When harvesting a head, cut it off above the outer leaves, not at ground level. This often results in smallish (4-inch) baby cabbages forming at the cut. Delicious they are.