Friday, December 30, 2011

Mon Petit Chou

Mon Petit Chou is a phrase of affection used by the French meaning: "My little cabbage."

Growing cabbage in the garden is not all that popular anymore.  Eating cabbage isn't all that popular anymore. I'm guessing there's a generation that doesn't realize the slaw they get with their chicken tenders is made from cabbage.

The approaching New Year's Day prompts this little cabbage article.  Cabbage has long been considered "good luck" if it's consumed on New Year's Day.  It may go back to the belief that cabbage leaves are a sign of prosperity, representing paper currency. 

The Irish consider eating corned beef and cabbage on New Year's Day insurance for a coming year of good luck and prosperity.  Cabbage has been farmed from as far back as 400 BC and the wild version used for thousands of years BC.  It was credited with saving many lives during the Irish potato famine.

The Germans traditionally have a roast pork with sauerkraut on New Year's Day.  They don't mention good luck; perhaps it's just a favorite tradition.  Again, I suspect there's a generation that not only doesn't know sauerkraut is cabbage, but, would not let it touch their lips on a bet.

As with most holiday food traditions, many came from superstition and a specific legend.  They're often specific to nationality, race or religion.

As you get ready to feed a bevy of Rose Bowl fans or simply fix a Sunday meal, consider the cabbage.  Cook (most boil) with a flavorful meat, add potatoes and carrots (maybe a few onions) and feel the warmth of good cooking.  Some cook with black eyed peas, others in cabbage rolls, stir fry, au gratin and soup.

Come spring, add a few cabbage plants to your garden or flower beds.  They take very little room and attention and are rather pretty.   Plant where no other related plant has grown the previous year: such as brussel sprouts, cauliflower, etc.  They don't like full sun and are perfect for tucking around other plants.  They thrive on compost and about 6 inches of mulch.  They need adequate moisture but the soil should drain.  Put a collar of newspaper around the plant when setting in the ground if you have cut worms.  Use fine meshed fencing around them if you have rabbits.

Cabbage is a good source of riboflavin, vitamin C, glutamine, indol-3-carbinol, and is low calorie.  It is fairly easy to preserve, keeps long in the refrigerator and may be left in the garden until right before it freezes.  Some like the flavor better after a frost. 

Cabbage production is a big industry in other countries with the US being the nineth in production.  If you like US grown and regulated foodstuffs, check the labels and know what US companies sell imported products - or - grown your own. 

You may purchase seeds or starter plant sets at most full service nurseries and on line. 

There are quite a few varieties, including red and curly leaf.  Try a few this year and treat yourself to this delicious vegetable.  Introduce it to your children and grandchildren.  Learn to cook with it.

And here's a couple of cabbage quotes: 

"Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education"  Mark Twain
"I want death to find me planting my cabbage" Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) 

The top photo is from the University of Illinois web site and it also has a lot of good "cabbage growing" information.  The other two photos are from my early cabbage sets prior to the heads being fully formed.      

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