Before the Kale Craze
In the hype of the “super foods” craze it seemed like the lowly cabbage was off the radar of the trendiest health conscious writers and dietitians. This most versatile of veggies saw its nutrient packed relatives, broccoli and kale, outshine its own humble, yet worthy attributes. But with the new popularity of “fermented foods,” cabbage gets its day in the sun. Sauerkraut and kimchi are back on the menu!
Grow And Enjoy
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. We have to grow it before we eat it. And there are good reasons to grow your own cabbage, even when you can buy it pretty cheaply at the store.
Create Your Own Availability
First of all availability is not always what it seems. I was recently tasked with going to the store to purchase some Napa cabbage. I got to the store to find a pile of napa hearts that were half the size of normal heads with none of the dark green outer leaves: obviously they had been there a while and as the outermost leaves looked bad they were removed.
The Right Cabbage For The Job
Another good reason to grow your own is for variety. Round heads of cabbage are nearly always available to buy, but not all cabbage is the same. Some of the best types for making sauerkraut are not the type you buy in a store. Large (up to 15 pounds) firm heads are the best, and the larger they are the sweeter they tend to be. The higher sugar content in these sweet heads ferments more easily, and more flavorfully, than the relatively small heads found in the grocery store. When you grow your own, you pick the variety and provide the growing conditions appropriate for your purpose.
But why make your own kraut or kimchee in the first place? Again, variety and flavor. Try homemade sauerkraut laced with bell peppers or cucumbers and you will realize the potential. Or experiment with the varieties and combinations of kimchee, if there are any left untried. You just can’t buy this stuff in stores. When you eat homegrown-homemade you can taste the love.
How I Did It
I started cabbage seeds in soil blocks on January 31. I began hardening them off at the end of February. I planted them on March 12, in a bed that had just been limed and amended with a liberal amount of rough compost. Cabbage, like all leafy veggies, is a heavy feeder and benefits from nutrient rich soil and one to one and a half inches of water per week. Cabbage is ready to harvest when the heads are firm.
Whether you want to follow the latest health fad or want to try recipes that grocery stores can’t support, growing your own cabbage will reward you many times over.