I’m talking about your garden. When is it best to get those veggie seeds and plants into the ground? Is it too early? Do you want to veg inside a bit more? Usually this time of year we are seeing snow, not 74 degrees as it was last week. Now I notice the robins every morning tweeting away to one another. The daffodils are in bloom. The forsythia are next to pop. Looks like spring has sprung, but a little voice keeps telling me, not so fast sister.
The farmers’ almanac predicted a “soggy, shivery spring ahead.” Well they got the soggy part right. We’ve had so much rain. But looking into the future weeks, temps at night will drop, as they usually do this time of year. And then there’s Phil’s predictions. You know, our chubby groundhog weather forecaster, Phil. On February 2 he predicted six more weeks of winter. Six weeks would take us to mid March. That’s the “normal” time I put pea seeds into the ground. But this year, I put them in mid February. So far no sign of a pea shoot coming out of the ground. Mid March, I will replant my peas and if the whole lot of them survive and grow, well, I’ll be rich in peas. Thankfully, freezing is simple and quick for peas.
My cabbages and bok choy are going in the ground this weekend. They should make it through even if the temps get a bit frosty at night. Daytime temperatures zoom up to the 50’s midday and I am staying optimistic. Getting a jump on growing season is always just a fantasy of mine but this time, it may be for real. Time will tell.
I love making cabbage rolls, so easy, so juicy, and so good for you. My simple recipe uses tempeh but you can use the traditional ground beef. Harvesting cabbages is way off, I know, but save this recipe for that one large cabbage head you pluck out of your garden and tenderly carry it back to the house for cooking.
1 Onion, minced
1 Carrot, minced
1 tbsp cooking sherry
2 tbsp red wine
1 tsp liquid aminos or tamari
1 cup cooked rice
2 tbsp dill, fresh or dried
1 green cabbage
For the sauce:
28 oz crushed tomatoes
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 cloves minced garlic
Ground pepper and salt to taste
Sauté your onion and carrots in the sherry and wine liquid till they are tender. Then add your crumbled tempeh or ground beef. Stir well and add everything else except the sauce ingredients. Tear off the cabbage leaves one by one and steam each one quickly over a pot of boiling water, remove and lay each one on a paper towel as you layer them and allow them to cool a bit.
Here’s the fun part: take one large leaf, spread it out and then add a dollop of your cooked tempeh or cooked meat mixture in the middle and roll it up like a cigar. Place them alongside one another in a baking dish. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce ingredients over a low heat for 10 minutes. Once your cabbage leaves are stuffed and lined up, pour your sauce mixture over the cabbages and then bake for about 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. If you like more sauce, serve it on the side. So good!
Even though red tomato sauce tastes so good with cabbage, as plants they are not compatible. Cabbage does not like to grow near tomatoes, beans, peppers or strawberries. That is true for all the brassica family, such as broccoli, kale and cauliflower. Cabbages do like to be planted about 20 inches apart so they can grow big and require about six to eight hours of sunlight.
We use compost tea or fish emulsion applied every two weeks for fertilizing and make sure they get about 1 inch of water weekly. Depending on the variety, cabbage can take 4-6 months to grow to maturity. Always apply water at the base of your plant, never water the entire cabbage. That can cause mildew and rot.
I use my saved eggshells as a slug deterrent by crushing them into a fine powder and then encircling each cabbage plant with a dressing of the crushed shells. Slugs do not like to walk over scratching surfaces. Be sure to examine the undersides of your cabbage leaves often. That’s where you may find insect eggs or worms. I drop those into a bucket of soapy water as I go along.
I may take one more week to veg and finish that book I am reading, and then I veg OUT in my garden!
(Karen Cohen is an organic veggie grower, nature lover, seed saver, and avid explorer. If you are interested in exchanging seeds, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for dates and details. Happy gardening!)