"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some Cabbage

“Having a good wife and rich cabbage soup, seek not other things” - Russian Proverb

June 22 cabbage

Same cabbage on October 23

We grew a nice variety of cabbage this season. Red cabbage like Ruby Ball, Red Acre, Tete Noire, Mammoth Red Rock (new to us) for storage, Derby Day and Danish Ballhead for sauerkraut, and savoy type cabbage for kimchi. I never have had any luck growing traditional napa cabbage, if they don't bolt to seed the slugs make a mess of them so we always use savoy for our fermented kimchi instead. This year we grew a cold hardy savoy variety called Melissa and a smaller headed one called Frigga and have been extremely happy with the results.

After much trial and lots of error over the years we have finally found a long term storage method that keeps us in fresh (red) cabbage long into the winter months. Storing cabbage has been one of the weak spots in our root cellar storage system. Every method I have tried has eventually resulted in rotten cabbage. Last year we did something different. I thought that if I could keep the cabbage alive perhaps it would stay fresh longer, so after removing the loose outer leaves we gently pulled the plants up by their roots being careful not to shake too much of the soil off and simply replanted the rooted end into a plastic bag that had a little damp dirt in the bottom and tied it tightly around the cabbage stem. Our cabbage remained in good condition throughout the winter. As you can see in the below picture I will be storing them the same way once again.


Elizabeth said...

Very clever storage system!!
I want some cabbage like that! You are so lucky to have a farm.

Engineeredgarden said...

Wow! You sure can grow things well! No, really....everything you grow impresses me.

meemsnyc said...

Wow, those cabbage looks amazing! I think I've said this before, I AM SO AMAZED that you make your own kimchi! Wow! I always buy it from the asian market, but it's not so great. I love your storage idea! I'll have to remember that if I ever grow cabbage.

mac said...

Wow, such a clever idea, I have to remember this, not that we have a root cellar or basement,at least it would help to keep the cabbage a little longer in the shack during winter.

I've always used Napa cabbage for kimchi, I'll have to try the savoy cabbage next time.

Heiko said...

I knew when I read the headline "some cabbages" we would be seeing loads of them not just some. I like the proverb! I can only grow brassica during the winter, as during the summer they get eaten by a ferocious bug. So most of them at the moment are just seedlings in the coldframe and my window sill and I have a few baby Russian kale from you. Pak choi I planted out at the same time were devastated by this bug, but your Russian kale was a bit more resistant and will hopefully give us something to eat later in the winter.

Daphne said...

Love the cabbages. That is a really clever way to store them too. My basement is too warm to keep things. My last basement was perfect. I may have to build a root cellar in my basement to keep it all from getting too warm.

Mr. H. said...

Elizabeth - We are very excited to be able to hold over cabbage into the winter months. I do like our fermented cabbage concoctions a lot but they do not compare to fresh crisp cabbage.

Engineeredgarden - Thank you. Over the years cabbage has been a difficult one for us to figure out both regarding the growing of and storage. While I am certainly not too confident in my ability to always grow a decent head of cabbage I do feel much better about our ability to store them.

Meemsnyc - You know, I am going to have to buy a jar of store bought kimchi one of these days just to see what it tastes like. I like how ours turns out but don't have anything to compare it to. You will have to try making some, it's really pretty simple. A fellow blogger just did a nice post on fermented foods including kimchi. -

Mac - This might be a great way for you to store cabbage without a root cellar as the plant remains alive and can handle more temperature fluctuations during storage. One of these days I will conquer the growing of napa cabbage, until then I am glad for savoy.:)

Heiko - Ah yes, we do like our cabbage around here and always try to grow quite a few...especially since they don't always do so well for us.

Too bad about your insect issues, we have aphids and slugs that like to go after our brassicas. Some years are worse than others but we always seem to be able to work around the bugs for the most part...and if not the chickens like their greens even more with a few bugs on them.

Daphne - We are very fortunate in that our old houses basement is underground and made of concrete allowing us to use it as an excellent root cellar. It is nice to have the ability to store fresh foods this way in conjunction with canning and freezing.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

I also don't have any luck growing napa cabbage. I tried growing them in spring or autumn but they tend to either bolt or get attack with the pest. You grow so many beautiful cabbages. I only grow the small hybrid variety type now "earliball".

kitsapFG said...

Cabbages are one of the better crops to grow in my region and growing climate. I actually did not grow hardly any of them this year because I was making room for dried beans to grow. Seriously regretting that decision as it was a wet and cold year - perfect for cabbages - horrible for dried beans.

Your storage method makes perfect sense. In my milder climate we just leave them in the ground through the fall and early winter. We actually just try to use them as fresh harvests during those months and then in about February, I usually have some napa cabbage growing in the unheated greenhouse (only place I seem to successfully grow it) which steps right in just when we are hungry for cabbage again. You can be sure that cabbages will be back with a prominent position in the garden again this year.

Beautiful harvest by the way!

Anonymous said...

Amazing cabbage. Very nice!

Mrs. Mac said...

I like the way you store the cabbage .. and the Russian proverb:)

el said...

I've had only so-so luck with nappa cabbages too: I will say, though, that some of the smaller ones that Kitazawa sells have done well for me...you should check them out too.


I love your quote! :)

Amy said...

Interesting info! I grew some Melissa this year as well. I'm waiting for the frost to come to sweeten it. It's so beautiful, but the flavor is incredibly boring. I'm trying really hard to be a cabbage person, but it is difficult. Maybe once the frost comes and sweetens it up a bit I will like it more.

Bev said...

So beautiful! Did you cover them against insects?

Leigh said...

Beautiful cabbages. I hope mine turn out like that. Cabbage is something I'm still learning about growing, because we like our sauerkraut.

Anonymous said...

I've got cabbage envy ;-) Thanks for sharing the storage tip. Have you tried it before?

Mr. H. said...

Malay-Kadazan girl - It sounds as though we both have had the same bad luck with napa cabbage...too bad for us. I grew small early hybrid called Gonzales a couple years ago and really liked them, your earliball cabbage sounds very similar.

Laura - As I type this it is of course pouring rain out.:) It really was a pretty good year for cabbage and I was happy with how our heads sized up in the end, we often struggle to get decent sized heads. I am looking forward to seeing yours next year, I know they will be very nice cabbages.

It is always so hard to tell what veggie is going to do good and what will not until the season is in full swing. That said, so far one of our most reliable plants regardless of the weather is the fava bean. When all other beans fail they thrive.

Jimmycrackedcorn - Thanks, we are quite pleased with this years harvest.:)

Mrs. Mac - I'm just happy that we finally came up with a solution to our cabbage storage issues. Now I can focus my energy on growing cabbage and not worry so much about how I will keep them once grown.

El - I just discovered "molokhia" at that seed link you shared...oh no, something else to try.:) I will consider trying the Kitazawa cabbage but am afraid that this type of cabbage might also fall by the wayside in our garden just as my efforts to grow fully formed heads of radicchio have.:(

Amy - What we try to do is incorporate finely diced cabbage into our salads, slaws, soups, and anything Mexican. Using it more for the crunch and health qualities than flavor. Most of our cabbage, all varieties, is a bit bland just like yours. I think it has to do with our gardening conditions, but they do get a bit sweeter once it cools off in the fall.

Also, kale is a fantastic and full flavored replacement for almost any cabbage dish you might make.

Bev - No, we don't cover our cabbage and do have some issues with aphids, slugs, and root maggots...but it has not been so bad these past couple years as it once was. Lots of predatory insects starting to show up and the weather has been a bit dramatic which seems to have helped with bad bugs.

Leigh - I'm still learning how to grow cabbage as well, and I have been growing it for quite a few years now. One day perhaps I will master the simple and supposedly easy to grow cabbage and all of it's complexities...or maybe not.:)

Contadina - We stored it this way last year and were quite happy with the results. Hopefully this year will work out the same for us.

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Very nice! My cabbage were feed for the cabbage worms! I'm afraid I only got 1. You really do amaze me at how you store up all that food. I have visions of you and Mrs H constantly busy together over food.

I was looking at your little temp widget and it was 10* colder here this morning at 8:30am! I had the hair brain idea of starting a Agritourism B&B! You know get folks to pay to sleep here and get up early and milk my cow all winter!!!! I think it sounds like a great idea!!!

Mr. H. said...

Diane - It has been a very warm rainy fall this year compared to last. I am enjoying the warmer weather as it has allowed us to take our time harvesting and preserving.

Yes, our lives do seem to revolve around food...I love it. I also love your idea of an Agritourism B&B. Then I could stop in for a couple days and refresh my memory on just how it is that one goes about milking goats and cows...its been about 30 years since I have done so.

GetSoiled said...

Clever man you are...although I suspect the storage idea might have come from the missus' head :)

I've never had cabbage soup! I think I'd like it...I do love to cook cabbage in a large skillet with just a touch of olive oil until is nice and brown but still crunchy...sprinkle some sea salt or add a bit of soy sauce at the very end and you get a lovely healthy side dish...

Ohiofarmgirl said...

I dont have to worry about storing cabbage.. I'm a cabbage LOSER. seriously, I get an "F-" in cabbage growing. I'll just look at yours instead.


Ms. Adventuress said...


(And great points about the wheat. I seem to react to it whether it's organic or not, but when it's not organic I have additional symptoms from the chems/preservatives used. I would not have believed any of this had it not been for a great ND who pointed out the importance of figuring this out. Who knew? And that book sounds like a great find. I look forward to hearing more.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr H!
I think that some other brassicas could be stored the same way. Maybe kale?
I don't have any luck growing cabbage, it just doesn't form heads or if it does, it is full with pests... so I gave up on it.

Buttons said...

Hello I absolutely love your blog.It is very full of information. I am glad I came across it. I am a farmer and information is always key. Thankyou

Mr. H. said...

Getsoiled - Of course I give Mrs. H full credit for everything I do.:) I have never had cabbage soup either but should. We made some red cabbage sauerkraut about 4 weeks ago and we just bottled it up. I think I like it even better than the regular kraut.

Ohiofarmgirl - Perhaps, but with pumpkins and livestock you are magical.:)

Ms. Adventuress - Yes, the book seems to be a very good read and I am really enjoying her thoughts on various varieties of corn and squash and how to incorporate them into different meals.

Vrtlarica - Cabbage can be a tough one, we do not always have the best harvest but the good years make up for the bad.

You know I have never thought of overwintering kale that way...it might be a really good idea. I bet if a few leaves were trimmed off and the roots not disturbed too much one really could store kale in a similar manner...very interesting idea.

Buttons - Thanks for stopping by and I am happy to hear that you found our little blog interesting.:)

michelle said...

That's a beautiful cabbage harvest! And what an inspired method of keeping it over the winter.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Hi, I made a link to this post on my recent post. I hope you don't mind:).

Mr. H. said...

Michelle - It was a good year for cabbage, I think I might have first heard about the Mammoth Red Rock on your blog...a nice cabbage.:)

Malay-Kadazan girl - That is great, I will have to come over and read your post.:)

Sense of Home said...

Mr. H. this is genius, I would never have thought of digging up the root and storing them that way. I blanched a few leaves and rolled and froze them, but you can't do that with many before you run out of space.


Wendy said...

geez is that some gorgeous cabbage!

The Cottage Garden Farmer said...

What a brilliant idea, unfortunately I never manage to grow enough cabbage to store like this, but I'm inspired to try next year.

Mr. H. said...

Brenda - I like how you blanched and rolled your cabbage leaves. That would be a great way to stor some up for using in soups and such.

Wendy - Thanks, the red cabbage makes a very pretty sauerkraut too.

Cottage Garden Farmer - That's great, I hope you have a lot of luck with yours next year.

Veggie PAK said...

I am in awe of your degree of organization! How inspiring! It looks like you are enjoying a piece of heaven on earth!

The vegetables are beautiful, and even the soil is beautiful... having been worked so skillfully to produce the crops you have.

Best of luck to you and yours in that wonderful setting.

Mr. H. said...

Veggie PAK - Thank you for your kind comments and for stopping in for a visit.:)

LynnS said...

Good job, Mike. I guess uprooted cabbage to store isn't much different than hanging other uprooted plants (tomato, bean) to continue -- never read this with cabbage before. Smart!

We grow cabbage here, we even have one still in the garden to pluck. I constantly struggle with cabbage worms, though. I've always wanted to try a protected bed (with Remay) but never did that experiment.

Like you, I prefer raw cabbage but we love a quick stir fry of thinned cabbage wedges in a pat of butter (and garlic of course!) with some dehydrated serrano bits. The heat really adds a nice flavor to the cabbage. My mom made it for me once and I've made it ever since.

So whatcha got growing under hoops at this time?

Mr. H. said...

Lynn - Cabbage stir fry the way you make it sounds good, I will have to try that. Our cabbage struggles against aphids, slugs, and root maggots but not so much cabbage worms...they are kept under control by predatory wasps around here. Although I too am considering using remay to cover brussel sprouts next year...the aphids get so bad on them that they are inedible by fall.

This year I am growing various kale, parsley, turnip greens, hardy lettuce, beet greens (an experiment), some chard, celery (another experiment), and spinach under covered rows. I'll be doing a lot of snow shoveling.:)

WeekendFarmer said...

Nice proverb : )! I do have a great wife...but cant grow any cabbage.

The funny thing is....as soon as we got married...she wanted me to join her on a cabbage soup diet. We had a good laugh looking at your post.

Lorena said...

Beautiful proverb, strange how modern culture has gotten so far away from this way of thinking

Mr. H. said...

WeekendFarmer - A cabbage soup diet would indeed be an interesting experiment. Can you believe I have never had cabbage soup, I will have to try it sometime soon.

Lorena - Yes, the less a person has the more one is able to appreciate and be contented with those few wonderful things in life all that much more.

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