Among the vegetables I grow in my fall garden, I would have a hard time choosing a favorite. But if for some unfathomable reason I absolutely had to choose one favorite fall vegetable, it would be the cabbage. I love them all – green, red, savoy, napa, bok choy. But I sometimes feel like the humble cabbage doesn’t get its due, and has been overshadowed in recent years by it’s trendier cousin kale. Now don’t get me wrong, I love kale, too, and we sure eat plenty of it. But for me, cabbage is a favorite fall and winter staple. It’s got a lot going for it – cheap, healthy, and versatile (and with many available varieties). And a head of cabbage is a good keeper, too – if kept cool, it can last in storage for many weeks.
Because cabbage is available year-round at the supermarket, those who aren’t gardeners may not realize that cabbage is primarily a cool weather (fall and spring) vegetable. And cool weather is when cabbage is truly at its best. Now a supermarket cabbage is just fine, but if you can grow a few heads of cabbage in the fall, or pick up a locally-grown one at your market, do it. Trust me on this. A frost-kissed, locally-grown fall cabbage is just so sweet and tasty. There is something about harvesting a cabbage in the cool weather, just after a light frost that brings out its natural sweetness. Where I live in the southern Appalachians, these sweet fall and spring cabbages are known as mountain cabbages. And though I do grow some of my own cabbage, I usually end up buying several more mountain cabbages at a local farm. I use them all fall and winter in soups, stews, casseroles, and even just fried in a skillet.
One of my favorite ways to eat cabbage is in stuffed cabbage rolls (or golubki as my Polish husband calls them.) The thing is, cabbage rolls take a lot of time and effort. A big pan of stuffed cabbages is just right for a Sunday dinner. But on a busy weeknight? Definitely not. So for a simpler version, I often make this Stuffed Cabbage Soup. Easy to make, basic ingredients, inexpensive, nourishing, and delicious – I mean, does it get any better? Just brown the meat, chop the veggies, and throw everything in a pot to simmer. Done. If you enjoy meal-prepping, you can even chop the veggies the evening before. As an added bonus, this soup freezes well, so you may want to spend a few extra minutes of preparation and make a double batch to have some for the freezer. Just reheat for an easy, quick meal. And I like to keep it simple and serve with a side of warm, crusty bread slathered with butter!
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