Thursday, 15 December 2011
January King Cabbage
The first thing people comment about when they are talking about January King cabbage is how beautiful it is. And it is. It's one of the most gorgeous vegetables out there, and veggies in general are things of beauty. January King is not quite a savoy, and not quite a smooth cabbage; not quite red and not quite green; it combines the most attractive features of all those cabbages.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me also note that it's been one of our most successful cabbages in the garden; slow-growing but but it can be left to stand in the garden for a long time, and it is tolerant of both heat and cold, although cold weather brings out the best colours and sweetens it. The flavour is excellent and it keeps well when properly stored. The heads aren't quite as tight as some cabbages, but dense enough and they can get to a good size.
While it is often thought of as an English heirloom, grown there before 1885, it is recognized that it came originally from France. There it is known as chou de Milan de Pontoise, "de Milan" indicating that it is a savoy type cabbage, and Pontoise being a town to the north-west of Paris where they were traditionally grown.
At 120 days to maturity, this is a slow-growing cabbage. We planted ours out in early June and didn't pick them until after the first snow in December. We didn't weigh ours, although they were plainly our largest cabbage. They are supposed to reach 3-5 pounds and that sounds about right.
Brassicas in general are not a great crop for us. We give them plenty of manure but they still aren't completely happy. Cabbages do the best, and January King is one of the better ones. They don't seem to be quite so thronged with happy crowds of cabbage butterfly larvae as some of the other brassicas, although we do need to check. Most of our starts formed heads, with fewer frizzly-leaved meltdowns than any of the others. Our soil is more acidic than brassicas like; that's one problem. Possibly we are also low on some other vital nutrient. However, as noted, this was our best cabbage crop. We will be growing it again, along with Copenhagen Market, which is a much earlier cabbage. One for the summer, one for the winter.
One thing I find amusing about January King is how readily it forms little sprouts along the stem. Yes, rather like Brussels sprouts. I wonder how much this variety contributed to the eventual development of Brussels sprouts. When I harvested our January King cabbages, I set all the sprouts aside as I trimmed them, and we had those for a couple of meals. They did indeed taste like a cross between cabbage and Brussels sprouts.