You would be forgiven by thinking that all cabbages have to grow enormous or that they all taste the same. Once upon a time our kids thought that and you can blame it on the huge packets of seeds which mean you have to grow the same variety for years so that the seed isn’t wasted!
Enormous veggies have their place but you don’t need to be swamped. Take spring cabbages (and yes we have an offer this month). These can be close spaced – pop Wheelers Imperial in at 15cm apart for delicious spring greens which haven’t hearted. Pop in Durham Early at this spacing and then harvest alternate plants – this will give the remainder space to heart a little for a second crop. Copenhagen Market Early is a marvellous heirloom (dates back to 1909), cut these leaving a stump behind, slice a shallow X into that stump and you ought to enjoy a second crop of little cabbage greens.
And they don’t all taste the same, well they taste of cabbage but with subtle differences. The first being that smaller spring greens have a delightful sweetness to them. Then of course there are the extra differences you can add by the way you cook them up.
This is the recipe that we include with our Durham Early seeds: in a deep frying pan soften onions with some ginger in olive oil, add shredded cabbage and a slosh of dark beer (or Guinness), season, cover, reduce the heat and cook until the cabbage is tender. Enjoy the rest of the beer after dinner!
And what about carbonara cabbage: in a bowl mix 250ml single cream (or fat free fromage frais) with 50g grated parmesan & black pepper to season. Cook your shredded cabbage (steam or boil), meanwhile in a frying pan cook ham or bacon (add some chorizo for a kick) with some garlic. Add the parmesan mixture and cooked cabbage to the frying pan, toss everything together until well coated and return to the heat to warm through before serving
Glazed Chinese style cabbage is another tasty treat and cooks in one pan so easy on the washing up – put your shredded cabbage (you can use a red cabbage for this) chopped chillies, a large bit of ginger, 4 chopped garlic, 75ml rice wine winegar, 30ml soy, 50g sugar (or 25g sweetner) and a handful of chopped spring onions in a large pan with a lid, simmer for 25 minutes or so until the liquid has reduced. Keep cooking and stirring until the juices become really sticky and glaze the cabbage… serve hot or cold
For summer there is homemade coleslaw… almost infinite variations are possible… and you can use natural yogurt &/or crème fraiche instead of mayonnaise to keep it as a lighter option and the basic mix is then cabbage, carrots and onion (or spring onions) with a bit of mustard. You can pep up the flavour with some orange juice and perhaps a bit of mint. You could also incorporate grated celeriac and shredded Pak Choi in place of the cabbage and use parley and coriander for flavouring with a touch of lime juice
And if you cannot wait until spring for your spring cabbages you might get your first cut from Copenhagen Market Early by Christmas!