Let’s Revisit the Cabbage Patch
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 48. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
While we’re sad to say goodbye to those sweet summer tomatoes, fall is officially here, and there’s a whole new set of crops on the block. The key to this whole local food system is really having locally produced food available year-round, because people need to eat year-round. We’re starting to see that become more of a reality here in the Piedmont, where more farms are growing crops that are available during both the spring and fall.
It’s easy to eat strawberries all year, because conventional farming makes that possible. But when we eat foods that aren’t really in season where we live, we’re really doing ourselves (and our local farmers) a big disservice. There are some excellent crops that can’t tolerate high heat but can tolerate cool nights; radishes, turnips, beets, spinach, Swiss chard, and cabbage are all delicious spring and fall crops.
When I think about one spring and fall crop in particular – cabbage – I don’t picture the perfectly smooth, spherical mounds we’re so accustomed to seeing in the grocery store. Instead, we picture Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage. It’s a pointy-topped variety of cabbage that used to be really popular in this area; but sadly, it has become less available. Farmers used to love growing it because it’s so sweet and wonderful. The reason it’s less common nowadays is that if you get an inordinate amount of rain, the cabbages will split, making them less attractive and less profitable. Because most farmers can’t afford that loss of investment, many gravitate toward plainer varieties. We’re really excited about three farms we work with regularly that do a strong job of growing at least three seasons’ worth of produce. All three – Schicker’s Acre, Guilford College, and Farlow Farm – supply us with some amazing cabbage!
North Carolina coleslaw – whether it’s the creamy slaw from “down east,” or the barbecue slaw from around Lexington – is made from generic cabbage. But if you can get your hands on some pointy-topped cabbage (such as Early Jersey Wakefield or Caraflex) when you visit the farmer’s market this fall, we urge you not to cook it. Shave it and make some coleslaw. Maybe it’s an Asian slaw with some ginger-sesame vinaigrette, or perhaps your favorite barbecue coleslaw; whatever your preference, these less-common types of cabbage will make your coleslaw sublime. (And when you happen upon some heavy, dense, flat-headed cabbage, that stuff is ideal for braising. That’s how we prepare our mustard-braised cabbage.)
Our coleslaw recipe is made with our own buttermilk salad dressing, and it was developed to play a complementary role to the smoky pulled pork sandwich on our lunch menu.
Another great fall dish we love is red cabbage cooked with wine and cranberries, which is delicious. It is wonderful with grilled meats like chicken or pork.
We really want to celebrate fall crops and encourage more people to plant all kinds of edible crops throughout the year. Ultimately, that’s the only way we’ll have a sustainable food system: by extending the seasons, and embracing the produce available to us within each of those seasons.
- Cabbage originated in Europe, and it was a staple in people’s cuisine during the Middle Ages.
- In Britain during World War I, cabbage leaves were used to treat trench foot because their leaves have cooling properties.
- Cabbage is full of vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and folate, and it also has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Cabbage should be wrapped and stored in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator, and should keep for up to a week or so.
- There are many different varieties of cabbage. Some of the most common are:
Green: This is one of the most common and versatile types of cabbage. It has large, tightly packed leaves and can fluctuate in size — from baseball to basketball size!
Red: This tightly packed cabbage actually has more of a purple hue, and it is often smaller than green cabbages.
Bok Choy: This dark green cabbage is more like Swiss Chard than other cabbages. It has crunchy stems and tender leaves, and it is best eaten in stir-frys.
Napa (also referred to as Chinese or celery cabbage): This mild cabbage looks more like a lighter colored romaine lettuce than its other cabbage relatives. It has an oblong shape, and its leaves grow off of thick stalks.
Savoy: Green and loosely packed, with a ruffled, lace-like texture, this is one of the most tender varieties of cabbage
Lucky 32 Slaw
- 8 cup cabbage, sliced ¼ inch
- 2 cup carrots, ¼ inch julienne
- ½ cup red onion, ¼ inch dice
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 cup Buttermilk Herb Dressing
- 1 ½ tsp Old Bay spice
- ¾ tsp celery seed
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cut cabbage into quarters, and then slice into ¼ inch thick slices.
In a bowl, toss cabbage, julienned carrots, diced red onion, and salt to combine.
Let mixture sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, then rinse salt off and drain well. Set aside. In a bowl, combine Buttermilk Herb Dressing, Old Bay spice, celery seed, and vinegar. Add buttermilk herb mixture to cabbage mixture and combine well.
Makes 3 quarts
Buttermilk Herb Dressing
- 3 cup buttermilk
- 1½ cup sour cream
- 1½ cup mayonnaise
- 1½tbsp granulated garlic
- 1½ tsp dried oregano leaves
- 2 tbsp chopped chives
- 1 tsp Tabasco® sauce
- 1½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients well.
Makes 6 cups
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup fruity red wine
- 1 cup cranberries, dried
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- ¼ cup yellow onion, diced
- 1 lb red cabbage, chopped
- 1 cup vegetable stock
Combine wine and vinegar and add cranberries. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or until the cranberries soften.
Heat oil in skillet to medium-high, and sauté onions until golden.
Add rough chopped cabbage and sauté until shiny and softened, but not wilted.
Add stock and wine/cranberry mixture and simmer for five minutes.
Makes 3 cups