Kitero’s arrival and the cabbage that was loved

by Ciaran Burke

Amelie walked with her dad, or rather she ran ahead and he followed. Fueled by the curiosity and enthusiasm that only a young child can possess, running along the grass path and past the stone-walls she entered the vegetable patch. Calendula flowers made her exclaim, then she saw the heads of cabbage, firm pale green globes cradled by large firm leaves. It was love at first sight, she bent down to hug the cabbage and then the lucky brassica received a kiss to its crown. Her Dad laughed, she giggled with delight, then she buzzed off to chase a white butterfly.

Calendula flowers

Snail eating some oat meal. Oats or bran is ideal for cleaning their digestive systems. The process takes about five to seven days.

Our visitors, a lively family, a lovely family, came to eat snails. Our petit gris, collected from the garden and reared in the shed, fed with bran to purge their digestive sytems. The kids preferred to eat Hanna’s delicious almond ring biscuits but us adults enjoyed l’escargot, the snails cooked in a white wine and tarragon sauce. Before they left, Amelie and her brother Gael brought us a gift, a new resident for our garden, Kitero.

Hanna’s almond rings baked according to her granny’s recipe from Finland. they proved to be a much bigger hit with the kids than my snails!

Kitero came from Knock. He arrived in a box and dressed in a fine red Kimono. His socks filled with sand and a beaming smile on his round green face. His hat and gloves on, ready for the cold, because Kitero is always on duty, in all weather, Kitero our scarecrow.

Kitero watches over our cabbage

We made him a home, he sits happily on the wooden edge of a raised bed, where he watches over our cabbages, including the kissed one. Kitero’s job is an important one, wood pidgeons love cabbages even more than Amelie. Where as she was happy to place a gentle kiss and give a firm hug, pidgeons would rather eat their leaves.

The feathered ones are not the only winged visitors to like our cabbage. Cabbage white butterflies, flutter around them looking for places to lay their eggs. When they do, usually on the underside of the leaves, caterpillars will soon emerge, hungry ones that will munch holes in the leaves. Unfortunately Kitero does not scare caterpillars, actually I am not sure if he would scare a bird, he looks too friendly. When I find groups of yellow eggs on any brassica leaves, including the relatives of cabbage such as Brussels Sprouts and Kale, I squash them. Those that I miss emerge as larvae, they get squashed. Some people do not like to squash them, instead they favour re-location of the pests, but I have no qualms about delivering a deadly squueze to a few caterpillars that I find on my cabbage leaves.

Caterpillars on brussel sprouts- Pieris brassicae, the larva stage of cabbage white butterfly

Cabbage is a widely grown vegetable and it likes the cool climate of the west of Ireland. It is hardy and reliable. Easy to grow in well prepared soil. Many people turn up their noses at cabbage, perhaps too many childhood dinners of over cooked and mushy leaves. I went through a phase of rejection but I have a renewed love of the green globes. Not that I have kissed a cabbage lately, nor given one a hug, but cooked with love to produce a tender dish kissed with the flavour of caraway and honey, cabbage is a vegetable I readily embrace again.

Sautéd Cabbage with Caraway Seed and Honey – Recipe

Ingredients

  • Half cup of finely chopped onion
  • 4 cups of chopped cabbage
  • One tea spoon of caraway seeds
  • Table spoon of honey
  • Oil for frying

Method

  1. Sauté the onion in oil until soft
  2. Add the caraway seeds and stir for a couple of minutes
  3. Add the chopped cabbage and stirfry until the cabbage becomes tender but not soft (ten minutes)
  4. Stir in the honey and serve

Serves four as side dishes. One variation that an American visitor shared with us a while ago is to use dried chillis instead of caraway, both recipes are delicious! If you have tired of boiled cabbage this could make you fall in love with cabbage again!

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