Young cabbages, back in December
The cabbages are in! Lots and lots of them, in spite of a Christmas season warm enough to fool the other cole crops into thinking it was springtime. We grew three heat-tolerant varieties this year:
Chieftan Savoy, a gorgeous crinkly blue-green cabbage with smallish heads and a sweet, mild flavor. Especially tasty in soups.
Red Acre, a reddish-purple cabbage which The Perfect Man uses to make coleslaw. (Anybody know a good pickled red cabbage recipe? I’d like to try it.)
Early Flat Dutch, which makes enormous shiny pale-green heads weighing in around 8-10 pounds apiece. The heads are very tightly packed, as well, making it harder for hungry insects to gain access.
All three produced well — despite the vagaries of our coastal weather — without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. We planted them in late September, in rotation behind tomatoes and green beans. Cabbages are happiest in rich, moist soil, so we added an inch of fresh compost (made from a well-rotted blend of leaves and kitchen scraps) and hoed it in before planting.
We have a big garden and I have a strong aversion to gasoline-powered tillers, so everything gets a heavy hay mulch to prevent weeds, preserve moisture, deter fire ants and provide a nice dark habitat for earthworms. (If you’re still getting weeds, your hay isn’t thick enough.) One layer of mulch will last a full year — two crop cycles — before it needs replacement, and we just roll it back like a big brown carpet to add compost or set transplants.
Our cabbages like the mulch carpet method. They are shallow-rooted and thirsty, so the protective layer keeps them moist. And here’s an interesting bonus: among the brassica clan, the tendency to bolt is affected more by root temperature than by air temperature. Mulch insulates the cabbage roots when we get those freaky 75-degree spells.
Once harvested, cabbages in our warmish winter climate need to be processed quickly. The Perfect Man ramped up the shredding-bagging-and-freezing operation to the point where the motor on our overworked food processor burned up. Cabbage-loving relatives and neighbors carried off recycled grocery bags bulging with leafy orbs. We experimented with some new cabbage recipes. Now they’ve all been put away, given away or eaten… and we’re prepping the beds for the next occupants.