Appalachian Food Gardening

Eating Cabbage in the Mountains

Cabbage in garden

“Southern mountain folk have been growing and eating cabbages for over three centuries now, and mostly loving every minute of it. Contrary to the minstrel song that would indicate boiling was the only way of cooking cabbages, mountain people over the years have enjoyed shredding and salting them (sauerkraut), as well as frying, steaming, and stewing them, and of course, serving them raw (coleslaw).

The Jamestown colonists were cultivating and consuming cabbage as early as 1625 along with corn and beans. Like maize, cabbage was relatively easy to grow and could be easily stored for winter consumption.

The valleys and coves of the Appalachians—black rich bottomlands—are ideal for growing cabbage and other truck crops. Thus in addition to the family garden plots, you often find quite a bit of commercial cabbage acreage yet today in the foothills of north Georgia, western North Carolina, east Tennessee, and Virginia. Typical of small farmer cabbage growers is Jewell Jones in north Georgia’s Cartecay community, whose farm boasts glistening green fields of cabbage every spring and summer.

Several people told me how they preserved their crop over winter by burying the cabbage heads upside down. They brought them in for eating one at at time, having to discard only an outer leaf or two. For those people who had root cellars, the cabbage could be stored alongside their potatoes and apples.”

—”Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine” by Joseph E. Dabney


I love cabbage anyway I can get it. Pap always grew a row of cabbage and it was so good fresh and crispy from the garden. We’ve grown cabbage several times over the years, but last year was our most successful harvest. We only made one small change but it made such a difference.

Blind Pig reader Ed Ammons said he planted his cabbage under row cover and that it really worked well, so last year we tried row covers. The cabbage was amazing. The cover protects the growing cabbage from insects while letting in all the rain and sunshine. Our cabbage was just lovely.

If at all possible in the future I will always use row cover for my cabbages.


Last night’s video: My Favorite Potato Soup Recipe.

Tipper

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    Connie Baker
    February 10, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    After 10 years (We’ve been married for 19, together for 21) of talking about gardening and keeping chickens, I finally got my husband on board! Lol. I’m pretty sure that everything that happened around us during 2020 helped push him into realization. So, last season (2021), we planted our first actual garden with tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, radishes, carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, green beans, strawberries, sunflowers and zinnias. We got a good harvest out of everything and canned up salsa and stewed tomatoes :). The 1 major problem was all 32 tomato plants cross pollinated, so the beefsteaks, early girls, brandy wines, romas and grape tomatoes all tasted the same. Lesson learned. We’re separating them this year between the front yard and backyard.
    Also, my beans, cucs, peas, zinnias, and sunflowers were in the front yard in my flower bed. We transplanted all the iris and oriental lillies to the boulevard (couldn’t give them up) and gave all the daylillies and mums to the neighbors. We had already started a ‘feeding’ flower garden on the boulevard for the hummers, bees and butterflies, so we just added the ornamentals to them.
    Anyway, my point was…..Only the north east corner of my front yard gets the sunshine until about 12:30 – 1 o.clock. I grew the cucs, peas and sunflowers up the chain link, then planted 2 1/2 little rows of bush beans and 1 1/2 rows of Zinnias.
    The problem with that was that I had to pull apart and climb through the zinnias to get to my beans and then being bent over in such a small space to pick ’em was not terrific. Lol.
    This year, I’m planting pole beans and letting them grow up the sunflowers and just a small square of zinnias in a corner so that I don’t have to climb through them.
    We also got chicks last June. We got 1 buff orpington, 1 lavender orpington and 2 black australorps. Jeff LOVES them, lol and talks to them and loves to hang out watching them in the yard while he cooks on the fire. He finally agreed to the chickens after I showed him some you tube videos of chickens catching and eating mice and snakes. He built their coop in a corner of the garage and a run in front of the garage for them for when the dogs are outside.
    We live in Central Illinois, in the city (Decatur). Our property is 0.14 th of an acre. Haha. We use containers for some things and the tomato/pepper garden took up most of the middle of the yard (he had to keep room for his fire pit and chopping wood area :). And then the old front flower bed for the other veggies and the berries.
    This year I’m going to try to grow sugar baby watermelons along the chain link in the backyard between the chicken run and the gate. I hope it works. Also, Jeff built a raised bed 3 feet deep and 10 feet long on the side of the garage for onions, radishes and carrots. I’m also going to try to find a spot to plant some cabbage and asparagus….somewhere. Haha.
    In closing, I want you to know , Miss Tipper that I love watching your you tube channel ( I am a subscriber…MoonWillowWglbt….:). I’ve learned a great deal from you and yours. Yes, that IS the best way to make cornbread! I like it much better now, since learning from you :), and I’m planting Julliette tomatoes instead of grape this year 🙂
    Your voice is so soothing and calming that nights when I can’t sleep because my brain is a scramble, I turn on your channel and listen to your stories and readings till I fall asleep peacefully. You have helped me and taught me soooo much. I am truly grateful for you and yours. May God in Heaven Bless and keep you and yours forever.

    Sincerely,
    Connie

  • Reply
    Gigi
    February 10, 2022 at 2:31 pm

    Ok Tipper, I love cabbage. Biut anyway. Mostly fried and of course Cole slaw. I just don’t have no luck with growing them. Everything else is good. Now what do you mean row covered?

    • Reply
      Tipper
      February 10, 2022 at 3:33 pm

      Gigi-it’s like a soft gauzy material that you cover the plants with. The fabric lets in the sunshine and rain but keeps the bugs away 🙂

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    February 10, 2022 at 5:42 am

    Gotta have my “kraut”

  • Reply
    Christine
    February 8, 2022 at 10:11 am

    I too enjoy cabbage just about any way to eat it. Last year was the first time I tried growing cabbage in my garden. The spring crop were over crowded, so they were small and the cabbage worms enjoyed them before I could. Still I was able to harvest about 10 very small eatable heads. Then I saw your video of your cabbage and how the net tunnel really worked. I wanted to try planting cabbage again in fall, but had sowed my seeds inside later than I should have. I didn’t get them in the ground until September. I could not find a net tunnel anywhere local and with all the shipping issues I knew it would be to late to save the cabbage from the worms again if I tried to order one. I ended up making my own net tunnel by cutting an old hula hoop I had in the garage in half, some wooden stakes and several yards of lightweight organza fabric I had in my sewing room. I used rocks I found to keep it pulled down on the sides so it would not blow away. It worked! I had spaced them well, kept them watered well and covered at all times, except to harvest one, then covered it back up. They were absolutely beautiful, as big as the grocery store size and lasted way longer than any I’ve ever bought. I had delicious fresh cabbage until late December. Thank you, Tipper for sharing your garden, because if you hadn’t I might not have seen the net tunnel and would have given up on growing cabbage. I had watched other gardeners, but never noticed them using the tunnel before. Now I see them on a lot of channels. I think you started the trend. Either way, I sure appreciate you talking about it! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Dianne
    February 8, 2022 at 7:27 am

    That was supposed to say what is scuppernong? I’ve never heard of it.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      February 8, 2022 at 8:03 am

      Diane-it is a type of grape 🙂

  • Reply
    Dianne
    February 8, 2022 at 7:25 am

    What is supporting? I’ve never heard of it.

  • Reply
    Ruth Binder
    February 7, 2022 at 3:17 pm

    I like the simplicity of your Potato Soup, Tipper. Mine usually had carrots, onions and celery, but I’m going to try yours. Great idea for cold winter days!

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    February 7, 2022 at 3:11 pm

    I love cabbage, too.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    February 7, 2022 at 12:40 pm

    I love cabbage any way it is cooked, but did try the Haluski (cabbage and noodles) but decided I liked the plain cabbage. I guess it is what one eats growing up, and my mom kept everything really simple. I often said the only seasoning I was used to was salt, pepper, and salt pork or butter. Now I have a drawer full of spices. I was sent the best cabbage one year on New Year’s Day, and the sweet lady had chopped it fine and fried in small amount of oil. I have copy catted her ever since. Just a little butter added does the trick, but agree with Sharon Cole that must have delicious cornbread.

  • Reply
    Gloria Hayes
    February 7, 2022 at 12:29 pm

    Cabbage and cornbread, nothing any better! And can’t make vegetable soup without cabbage. Fried fish with slaw, hotdogs with slaw and barbeque and slaw, good eating!! My dad grew what he called a cabbage collard. It had a milder flavor than a regular collard and also a lighter color. It was so good.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 7, 2022 at 11:46 am

    We love cabbage fried or stewed or in soup or kraut. We were gifted a lot of left over cabbage plants last spring. Hadn’t planted any in years–there were several kinds and some of the cutest little cabbages I’ve ever seen! They were a good size for a small family meal. I did freeze some lightly blanched and it has been really good. Our gifted brussells sprouts did great too, even in the heat. I had never grown any and didn’t even know how they grew on the plant! They were amazing to me!

    I’ve already gotten two seed catalogues in the mail and am thinking of spring! My husband burned off our garden plat last fall so I’m looking forward to seeing if it will help us with the diseases.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney
    February 7, 2022 at 11:45 am

    Sauerkraut and Bratwurst sausage fried together has always been one of my favorites. When I hear or read about how good or delicious such and such food is, it reminds me of what Dad used to say when someone would tell him how good a certain food was and that he should try it. He would always reply in a joking way, “Only if you like it”. Unlike me, there was a whole bunch of food that he did not like

  • Reply
    Darlene Harbour Boyd
    February 7, 2022 at 11:34 am

    I live in the mountains of Virginia, and there are acres and acres of cabbage grown around us. I make kraut every year but this year I learned I can can cole slaw. Game changer! And yes it stays crunchy! Basicly you pickle whatever you would normally put in your slaw -minus the the mayo. When you are ready to use it you drain well and add mayo, adjust sweetness to taste. Ya’ll need to try it!

  • Reply
    Betty Saxon Hopkins
    February 7, 2022 at 10:54 am

    I love cabbage and it’s super healthy. I cook it quite often and have some in my fridge to cook this week. Your post brought back so many other good memories of cabbage. Mom and Dad always had a garden and an abundance of cabbage. I called Mom one day many years ago and asked her what she was doing. She said, “I’ve been making kraut all day and this cabbage is growing!” I remember, too, a little ditty my Dad used to sing and play called “Bile Them Cabbage Down!” My parents are gone now but what sweet, wonderful memories of cabbage. 🙂

  • Reply
    AWGRIFF
    February 7, 2022 at 10:33 am

    I love cabbage every way I can think of but we usually fry or steam it. Like Robin,

    we too like fried sauerkraut but always eat some not fried to get the live probiotics.

    A few years ago I grew some eggplant. I had never seen anyone in e.ky. grow eggplant while I was growing up. I thought it was the most bland vegetable I had ever tried to eat. It is tasteless compared to our delicious fried green tomatoes. I never grew eggplant again although it is an eye catcher in the garden.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    February 7, 2022 at 10:00 am

    My mother made delicious steamed cabbage. Thankfully I learned from her and mine are almost as good. There is a joke in my husband’s family – they would have cabbage and potatoes one day and potatoes and cabbage the next day! You have to make your delicious cornbread when you are serving cabbage! Take care and God bless!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 7, 2022 at 9:27 am

    When Dusty was little he loved to gnaw of the core of a cabbage. He called it the “cob”. If he knew someone was cutting up cabbage he would come and wait like a puppy dog waiting for a crumb. He wanted his cob!
    He’s not usually around nowdays when I fix cabbage but I’ll wrap up his cob and stick it in the refrigerator in case he shows up in the next couple of days.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 7, 2022 at 8:57 am

    Cabbage & I get along alright and I try to grow it but I don’t reckon I ever just get to hankerin’ for it. Of us two, I like it best but added up it doesn’t amount to 3 heads/year.

    I have a few plants in the garden now but they don’t show much inclination to head. I may have caused that by putting a tomato cage wrapped in chicken wire around them to save them from the groundhog. Anyway they grew up taller than normal. I did discover something a bit interesting. On the nights in the 20s I put a black garbage bag over the tomato cage. Several times I left them for a couple of days. One of the cabbage plants blanched to a nice yellow. I’m thinking I’ll just eat those leaves in lieu of having a head. Wish I knew more about using shade. I could have used some on the celery I grew last year but hadn’t a clue how to go about doing it right.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    February 7, 2022 at 8:48 am

    Vegetable soup is not worth eating unless it’s made with more cabbage than anything else. Mom used to quarter cabbage, roll the pieces in cornmeal and fry it. That’s also how I fry mine.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    February 7, 2022 at 8:12 am

    You really did grow some lovely cabbage last year, Tipper! I can tell you’re getting psyched up and excited about getting out in your garden and planting! To be honest, I am getting excited myself about spring. The winter is good to kill bugs and pests, but it sure is rougher every year on aging bones. I found a plant for 2 $ at Lowe’s. I found out it’s a desert rose and can live 100’s of years. Anyway, it’s my newest plant cause I can’t get outside yet. I’m adding green beans, carrots, onions and lettuce to my mix this year. I like cabbage alright especially in a cabbage roll- extra yummy! Mommy stored her cabbage heads buried in the dirt all winter long and hers were beautiful. Let’s get excited about gardening and dirt and all the hard work, sweat and enjoyment we are hoping for this gardening year!!!

  • Reply
    Mint2Bee
    February 7, 2022 at 7:47 am

    I love cabbage different ways too. Tried growing just a couple plants last year and didn’t have success; maybe this year it will do better. I’m thinking stewed cabbage and cornbread might be supper one night this week 🙂

  • Reply
    OkieJammer
    February 7, 2022 at 7:46 am

    Majy thanks to you and your readers on ‘planting’ the cabbage heads upside-down in straw to keep them longer and the row covers. I will be doing that this year.

  • Reply
    Denise R
    February 7, 2022 at 7:45 am

    We love cabbage as well! I’m currently allowing my 1st batch of sauerkraut to ferment on my kitchen counter in a crock I picked up this past summer. So far the process seems to be going well since it smells good. Hopefully it will taste better than what you can buy in the stores. We eat fried cabbage by itself or I’ll mix it together with noodles and some other spices. When our youngest daughter was young that was one of the only ways I could get vegetables in her as she loved cabbage and noodles mixes together. My husband likes to mix fried cabbage and greenbeans together, something he ate while he was growing up. We grow cabbage every year in our garden, but last year our cabbage didn’t do very well. I suspect it’s the soil lacking nutrients, so I’ll add some more compost this spring. We’ll have some cabbage this week with our supper, it’s just deciding which way I’m going to fix it!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 7, 2022 at 6:34 am

    I can remember my grandmother burying cabbage to preserve it. She made a row of them down the edge of the flower bed that joined the garden. They were roots up and “planted with straw around them to keep them clean. They kept a long time that way. She had lots of different ways to make the summer harvest last as long as possible.

  • Reply
    Robin
    February 7, 2022 at 6:21 am

    Wonderful post, thank you Tipper. I too love cabbage any way I can get it. I do like to have fried sauerkraut. I learned this growing up, must be my German roots.

  • Reply
    donna sue
    February 7, 2022 at 5:24 am

    I love cabbage any way it is made, too! I enjoyed reading this post. Now I am in the mood for stuffed cabbage. That will be a good crockpot meal this week. And I can freeze the leftovers easily. Thank you for another yummy meal idea!!

    Donna. : )

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