Two savoy cabbages thrive on the shady side of Petersen's greenhouse in Thorne Bay despite this summer's unusually warm conditions. Photo taken at the end of August.
Same savoy cabbages as other photo when two months younger (July 1). Heads were slow to develop but well worth the wait.
Story last updated at 9/18/2013 - 1:52 pm
Cabbage grows well over almost all areas of Alaska. Some, like the ones exceeding 90 pounds at the Alaska State Fair, achieve proportions that seem inconceivable even when you are staring right at the monsters. Most people grow this conventional green cabbage variety (but somewhat smaller) as I have also done for years. This year I included another variety, savoy cabbage, in my garden and wish I had thought of it sooner.
Savoy, with its intriguing crinkly, wrinkly leaves (unlike the smooth, rubbery texture of green cabbage) can be used just like green cabbage in cole slaw or cooked recipes but is also mild, sweet and tender enough to add to salads. Not only that but savoy cabbage doesn't produce that disagreeable sulphur-like odor when cooked. (The odor results, by the way, from overcooking green cabbage and increases with continued cooking.) Perfect for stuffed cabbage recipes, savoy cabbage's dark bluish-green leaves are strong and flexible.
Cabbage is fairly easy to grow. I started seeds inside under lights in the first week of April and transplanted the five- or six-inch seedlings into raised beds in the greenhouse and outside in the second week of May, spacing them with plenty of room for large heads to develop. When I say large, I mean relatively large for a family garden - not big enough to fill a small dump truck like the ones at the fair - my cabbages are large, give or take ninety pounds.
Surprisingly, the broccoli and cabbage (cool weather plants) did well in the greenhouse this year even with the insanely sunny, that is to say HOT conditions this unusual summer in Southeast Alaska. Even with a fan going, temperatures sometimes soared above the 80 degree maximum recommended temperature best for cabbage. It took plenty of water but nice, firm heads of green cabbage were ready for harvest in mid-July while the first savoy was harvested the first week of September. Other savoys remain but care must be taken not to overwater now that the heads are solid lest I repeat my neighbor's cabbage disaster a few years back.
It seems the family had a fine crop of green cabbages prime for harvest in their greenhouse when the parents discovered that one cabbage looked as if it had been smashed right down the middle; that was odd. It was thought that perhaps their teenage boys had some information about a cabbage that looked like it had been attacked by a baseball bat; an inquiry pursued but no explanation or confession was forthcoming.
A couple days later, as the parents sat inside the greenhouse foraging on their bountiful garden, they were suddenly startled by an explosion that rocked the walls; another cabbage had burst open from excessive water pressure. After they realized the circumstances surrounding the shredded heads of cabbage, they had to laugh and still do about that mix-up.
Another super food, cabbage reportedly contains fiber and important nutrients as well as other very healthful, disease preventing components. At the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service website one can learn about different ways to preserve cabbage including how to make sauerkraut along with lots of great recipes including one for that classic chocolate sauerkraut cake with cream cheese frosting (publication #FNH-00169). I plan to try the one for freezer coleslaw; a concept I never thought possible.
Now I can't wait to try growing more varieties like red and Napa cabbage. Unfortunately, there's only so much room so will have to make a plan but one thing's for sure - savoy cabbage will definitely make the list.
Carla Petersen writes from Thorne Bay. She is a freelance writer and artist. Visit her website at whalepassoriginals.com or she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.