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The Cabbage that is King
September 20, 2012 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Brassica oleracae longata - the curious case of the seven-foot tall cabbage.
posted by unliteral (34 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ooo, cool. Between this and the urban mushroom farmers I just read about, I feel like I should tell my brother, who's into farming and soil science, to start a mushroom and walking-stick cabbage farm.
posted by limeonaire at 7:31 PM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and with spoonbill and blue potatoes, too...
posted by limeonaire at 7:36 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. I can't tell if the video linked in the article is some sort of deadpan humor or what. The so called "sunniest place in england" looks absolutely dismal and the "beautiful coastline" of Jersey is like a giant mass of stabby looking rocks, fit to smash galleons against but not much else. The residents of Jersey either have the dryest sense of humor or are the hardiest people on earth, for whom any break in the cloud cover is a sunny day. I'm not surprised such a harsh environment produced such an amazing plant.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:39 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Outstanding! Thank you for posting this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:46 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Awesome post!
posted by clockzero at 7:55 PM on September 20, 2012


Necessity is the mother of invention. They had to go for walks after consuming the giant cabbages, because the farts were unbearable indoors.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:59 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."


Oh...and walking sticks. I love the Internet.
posted by kozad at 8:01 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


WANT.

These would go so well with my yard-long beans and my ten-foot-tall tomato plants.

(My vegetable garden may or may not be in part deliberately designed to both fascinate and terrify neighborhood children.)
posted by BlueJae at 8:13 PM on September 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


About the author of the blog:
When people hear I have a master's degree in Garden History, their first response is often to laugh. It does have something of the underwater-basket-weaving ring to it. Next they're surprised, as I myself was initially, to find out that it is in fact a serious and scholarly 'field' of study; much like architectural history, only about landscapes instead of buildings. Then, then, they're fascinated. It only takes a little explaining for them to catch on that gardens are so much more than just a pretty place. So much more than just a collection of plants. I hope to share what, and why, with this blog.
Thanks for this post, the blog has years of fascinating posts.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:22 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


the blog has years of fascinating posts
Yes, originally I was going to post about her Atomic Gardens work. It wasn't hard to pick an alternative.
posted by unliteral at 8:30 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


These would go so well with my yard-long beans and my ten-foot-tall tomato plants.

(My vegetable garden may or may not be in part deliberately designed to both fascinate and terrify neighborhood children.)


BlueJae, where do you order your beans and 'maters? I've decided to do a witches garden next year with all sorts of strange things.

Here's walking cane cabbage seeds.

Imma WANT, too!
posted by BlueHorse at 8:42 PM on September 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd love to see the look on the faces of the nutjobs on my homeowners association when these giant cabbages come peeping over the garden wall. "Yeah, now that you mention it, I did get permission to grow cabbages. See, here's where you said OK. Why, is there a problem with variety of cabbage?"...
posted by Runes at 8:51 PM on September 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


"(My vegetable garden may or may not be in part deliberately designed to both fascinate and terrify neighborhood children.)"

Mine is organized on the principal of, what would be AWESOMEST if I was under ten years old? Fields of grass = boring, those are everywhere. Fields of eight-foot-tall grass for bushwhacking through while having adventures? SCORE.

Which is to say I REQUIRE THIS CABBAGE.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:56 PM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ordinarily ground-hugging plants that decide to grow big woody stems seem to be kind of an island thing.

Check out these tree prickly pears from the Galapagos islands, for example.

And scroll down to the very last picture for a graphic demonstration of a possible reason; I'd imagine herbivore boom and bust cycles on an island with few predators and nowhere else to go would make for tortoises desperate enough to eat anything they could get to.

I wonder what pre-settlement fauna on the Channel Islands was like.
posted by jamjam at 9:05 PM on September 20, 2012


What a great post. I will definitely be checking back on this blog.
My cabbages tend to get quite "stalky" herre in Colorado anyway, but I WANT these for next year. It would also make it less possible for my small dog to pee on them.

The so called "sunniest place in england" looks absolutely dismal

He did mention it was winter. I visited Jersey in the summer and can attest to it being quite lovely and definitely sunnier than the Lancashire beaches I was used to.
posted by Isadorady at 9:47 PM on September 20, 2012


BlueHorse, thanks for the link! I am totally planting those next year. It will be interesting to see how they interact with 22 hours of daylight.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:02 PM on September 20, 2012


The quintessential AskMe answer seems to go unanswered, however - can I eat it?
posted by maryr at 10:15 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


MY CABBAGES!
posted by elizardbits at 10:28 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another source of seeds - 1 packet (45 seeds) for $2.99.
posted by unliteral at 11:14 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Australians can buy seeds for walking stick cabbages from Eden Seeds. I believe you can eat them (aren't they technically a kale?) but I note that Eden Seeds recommends them for green feed for animals.

Bluejae, you should grow GIANT RHUBARB (ornamental only, sadly).
posted by thylacinthine at 11:37 PM on September 20, 2012


For being so tall, walking-stick kale's seeds are surprisingly small compared to other brassicas, and I at least got pretty low germination out of them. Plan accordingly if you want a nice long hedge of them, though YMMV.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:33 AM on September 21, 2012


Interestingly, tomatoes will grow to a great height. One method of growing tomatoes commercially involves constantly lowering the fruiting portion of the plants (which grow to 11m, or 36 feet). How It's Made is truly the best thing on television.
posted by pipeski at 12:59 AM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Mine is organized on the principal of, what would be AWESOMEST if I was under ten years old?

Eyebrows, I keep swearing I'm going to set aside a plot for a Land of the Giants Kids' Garden. Failing that, the 4-y.-o. was delighted with her ability to pluck Brussels sprouts (like tiny, tiny cabbages!) off their stalks.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:47 AM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


definitely sunnier than the Lancashire beaches I was used to

Damning with faint praise, and all that...
posted by Skeptic at 4:13 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right now Mr. Roquette and I have Brussels sprouts. My second garden. Neither of us grew Brussels sprouts before. They all look like plants from another planet. One really does since it has poor posture. Walking stick cabbage sounds like fun!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:58 AM on September 21, 2012


Just showed Mr. Roquette the Walking Stick Cabbage. He thinks we should grow some! ت
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:12 AM on September 21, 2012


...the curious eldritch case of the seven-foot tall cabbage.
posted by jquinby at 6:07 AM on September 21, 2012


Oh yes, I need those. Off to order some seeds now. You can also get seeds directly from the last walking stick makers on the Island of Jersey.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:11 AM on September 21, 2012


My mother and father fell in love and were married while working together at the National Vegetable Research Station. I believe most of my mother's work was with Brassica; she holds an enduring affection for Brussels Sprouts which surely could not be due to their taste.

I have sent this link to my Mum and anticipate SCIENCE in reply. Or a gentle hint that she'd like a cabbage walking stick for Xmas.
posted by alex.dudley at 7:48 AM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


...she holds an enduring affection for Brussels Sprouts which surely could not be due to their taste

Brussel Sprouts are a favorite around here, even with the children. Cut them in half, drizzle with olive oil and some sea salt, then roast them in the oven for a few minutes. Delicious! It's the only way we eat them.
posted by jquinby at 7:54 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks everyone who linked to seed sources! I didn't even have to dust off my Google box.

BlueHorse, I got my yard-long beans at a local garden shop that kind of specializes in quirk. But you can get them easily online -- they're also variously called Asian Yard Long Beans, Chinese Noodle Beans, or Asparagus Beans.

As for the tomatoes, those are really just regular tomatoes of various sorts -- usually I grow Juliets, Brandywines, Sweetie Cherry and couple of others. I just have a certain knack for growing monsters, and the good luck of living in an amenable climate.

Juliets in particular are indeterminate and eager growers and will pretty much grow where you train them. Simple tricks to getting your tomato plants extra tall include planting them deep, mulching them super well, feeding them properly (with the bones of innocent children, of course), and giving them a really tall cage (I stack two standard cages and wire them together) that you train them to religiously.

You should have seen the crowd of kids that gathered when I first picked the yard-long beans. Which are not even really a yard long, but sure do look impressive, especially when you set them next to a regular bean.

"Those are not real green beans, Ms. BlueJae. Quit fooling."

"You're going to eat those? Are you sure they're not poison?"

"They're snakes!"

Of course, certain of the neighborhood children also refused to believe in broccoli when I first showed it to them in its full plant form (the variety I grow can get up to four feet tall once you've cut the central head), and more than a couple were utterly surprised to discover that peas actually literally grew in pods.

Most of the kids in my working class / lower middle class industrial suburban neighborhood have never seen a vegetable garden other than mine. So I do my best to really make it really interesting for them.

I am something of a vegetable pusher.
posted by BlueJae at 8:17 AM on September 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


I second the roasting of brussels sprouts recipe, but I always turn people into sprouts lovers just by serving homegrown ones- there is no comparison with the commercial type. And most years their dried stalks have been strong enough for me to use as tent poles for beans and peas the next season. Sunflower stalks of the mammoth variety are good to reuse this way,too.

Seedman has many varieties of seeds for those of the size does matter camp.
posted by Isadorady at 8:37 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


From my mother:

"When I was a kid, about 6 or 7 I suppose, the field behind [her mother]'s was sown with something like that, to be used for animal food. Remember walking through it to this day, surrounded by the waxy creaking stems and leaves at head height, the smell was amazing!"
posted by alex.dudley at 2:00 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice try, Triffids, but I'm not planting you in my garden.
posted by DU at 4:32 AM on September 24, 2012


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