Valley Bounty: Cabbage

Cabbage harvest wraps up in November, but the leafy green stores well and is available from local farms all winter long.

I recently spoke with Lincoln Fishman who runs Sawyer Farm in Worthington with his partner Hilary Costa. Lincoln explained that they planted their cabbage back in June. Immediately after planting, Lincoln and Hilary covered their young cabbage starts with a cloth-like row cover for protection from flea beetles, a common pest that can quickly chew up an entire crop. Unfortunately, a searing heat wave hit the following week. Lincoln was faced with a tough decision: leave the row covers on and magnify the intense heat or take them off and leave the young transplants vulnerable to pests. In the end, he left the row covers on and even though they lost some transplants due to dehydration, most of the planting pulled through.

As the heat of June gave way to the constant rain of July and August, a new threat emerged: moisture-loving weeds. Lincoln spent hours guiding his draft team (Sawyer Farm is 100% horse powered) through the plantings with a cultivator (a mechanical weeder) hooked on the back. Most farmers adjust their cultivators by steering their tractors but on a draft-powered farm like Sawyer Farm, the horses are trained to walk straight down the bed. Meanwhile, Lincoln sits perched above the cultivator. He stares down as the plants go by below him and steers the implement’s metal teeth using stirrup pedals. As he puts it, “It’s like playing a video game!”

Despite the heat, the wet, and the weeds, Sawyer Farm still harvested a healthy cabbage crop in the autumn. Months later, Lincoln and Hilary are still enjoying their favorite winter slaw. They finely slice up a cabbage then mix it in a bowl with shredded beets, carrots, and daikon radishes. Next, they toss the mixture with sesame oil, soy sauce, and toasted sesame seeds. It’s a crunchy storage crop salad, best enjoyed flea-beetle free!

Valley Bounty is written by Noah Baustin of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)