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Cabbage Farming is More Adventurous Than Intended

(Warning: this adventure contains hornets, a moment of panic, but no serious injuries. If I ever have serious injuries to report, I’ll not begin that story by talking about cabbage.)

Near the end of third grade, local kids are each given a cabbage sprout and a challenge to grow it over the summer. In theory they will bring their grown cabbages to the school next fall to win prizes. I’ve never seen that part come to pass, but the cabbages come home because they’re provided free by a plant company. Patch proudly brought his cabbage home and we plunked it into the weed bed which has been a vegetable garden in years past. I expected it to die of neglect the way that Gleek’s had. Instead it thrived and over the summer months developed into a giant plant. This past week I’ve been staring out the window at the thing and realizing why that myth about babies and cabbage patches might seem believable. The cabbage head looked like an alien life pod. I knew that harvest time had to be near, so I consulted the internet for instructions and recipes.

Around 4 pm today I went to Patch to tell him that I planned to harvest his cabbage for dinner. His reaction was electric. He instantly jumped up from his game “We’re going to harvest it? Now?” Then he ran outside. I paused to collect a knife and my camera.

There he is contemplating his cabbage. Unfortunately the harvesting became more adventurous than intended. Right underneath the wood on which Patch was standing was a sizable hornet’s nest. Patch jumped up and down in excitement. Then moved in to a better photography position.

We got the above photo just moments before Gleek, who had come to watch the excitement, said “Wow. There are a lot of bees.” That was the last clear moment before my memories become a fog of shrieking Patch, Gleek yelling instructions, Patch freezing instead of running, me trying to swat a hornet off of Patch while not stabbing anyone with the knife nor dropping it where a panicked person might step on it. Oh, and I was barefoot, as I often am in summer. I wish I’d thought to put on shoes before heading outside. All of that in sixty seconds. Then we came indoors because there was a stinger to remove from Patch, Gleek discovered that one hornet had gotten inside her shirt and there was even more panic while that bug was slain.

The final sting count was three. Two on Patch, one on Gleek. We immediately administered antihistamines and daubed baking soda onto the sting sites. Then I prescribed a medicinal dose of funny animal videos for the next couple of hours. Within fifteen minutes all was restored to quiet. It was quiet outdoors as well. The hornets had returned to normal behavior. I noted where their entrance was hiding and vowed to return after dark with chemical weaponry.

So instead of having a fun family moment harvesting the cabbage, with photography. I went out by myself and cut it.

Patch grew a really good cabbage. It weighed five and a half pounds. I used about a third of it in soup for dinner. The other two thirds are in my fridge awaiting tomorrow’s recipes. The soup itself got mixed reviews. I loved it, as did Kiki. Link did not like it at all. Gleek and Patch both ate a reasonable portion, determined to eat the food they earned with pain, but finished up dinner by eating other foods.

The stump of the cabbage is still outside.

The internet tells me that it will sprout leaves that we can cook and eat. I’m curious to see what they will look like.

Once the world got dark, I went outside to spray the entry to the hornet’s nest. I don’t think I eradicated it yet, but I have other tools to employ on a different evening. I do feel a little bad, because the hornets were only defending their home. I actually find the tenaciousness of these huge nests kind of admirable. Unfortunately this is the second nest of 200+ stinging bugs that has taken up residence in a location that clashes with the safety of my kids. It has to go. As soon as the world freezes, sending all stinging insects into hibernation, I will recruit a crew to help me removed the wood under which these hornets are nesting. I’m tired of providing habitat for stinging bugs right next to my garden beds.

By bedtime the stings had faded to near invisibility. Patch and Gleek say they still hurt some, but they both completely forgot the stings for several hours this evening. Then they fell asleep without difficulty. I suspect another day will heal everything up again.

So: Growing cabbages = really cool and surprisingly tasty. I may repeat that. Housing hornets near my cabbage plant = bad idea, not to be repeated.

1 comment to Cabbage Farming is More Adventurous Than Intended

  • Darrin

    In addition to harvesting the mature heads of the cabbage planted in the spring, you can harvest a later crop of small heads (cabbage sprouts). These sprouts develop on the stumps of the cut stems. Cut as close to the lower surface of the head as possible, leaving the loose outer leaves intact. Buds that grow in the axils of these leaves (the angle between the base of the leaf and the stem above it) later form sprouts. The sprouts develop to 2 to 4 inches in diameter and should be picked when firm.