Cabbage beauty

Cabbage is not high on the list of plants that get mentioned in botanical love poems or odes to nature’s beauty. “Beloved, thou hast brought me many cabbages” — not likely. Stand aside and make room for hosts of daffodils (so angelic) or bunches of roses (so red, red).

But Brassica oleracea capitata has its own beauty, in a leafy, humble way.

The plant pictured above is particularly pleasing to my eye because the secret to growing cabbage in Sewanee’s climate has eluded me for many years. The springs are very cold, then suddenly switch to blazing heat; the cabbage looper caterpillars are abundant and bring with them an “all you can eat” attitude; and the late summer droughts are unfriendly to cabbage roots. Cabbage came from the wet, temperate climate of Northern Europe. It is out of place here.

But this year, I found a variety that seems to do well: Johnny’s “Storage No. 4” — evidently named by a modern Wordsworth. I helped the plants along with a little Bt to control to loopers, gave them some extra compost, and kept them moist during the summer heat. For a modest plant, they certainly like being pampered. If you’re looking for a cheap pastoral metaphor, there it is.

So far, they hold well in the chill, even in snow.

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