Saturday, January 8, 2011

'Minuet' Napa Cabbage - a Tiny Dancer

Some times my brain just does not work right! Back in late July, early August I started some seedlings to plant for our fall garden. Among them were Georgia collards, Champion Vates collards and Minuet napa cabbage. I had not grown napa cabbage before. In fact, I don't recall ever eating it either. I heard Chef Eric Ripert talking about how sweet it was while ripping apart a Top Chef contestant for using it inappropriately in a dish. That was when i decided to give it a try.

When the transplants were ready i set them out in various beds throughout the garden. After about a month they were about ready for some of the outer leaves to be harvested. Now i thought i had planted the napa in one part of the garden but there were none there so i figured they must have died or gotten eaten by something. There were these beautiful crinkly leaved plants growing in another place that i figured were the Champion collards. I had never grown them either. We harvested and cooked some of the leaves and they were delicious. We took some to market, labeling them Champion collards but they did not sell well. I decided we should call them "Champion Greens" instead since they didn't look like collards so maybe our customers were confused. They still didn't sell. So we let them continue to grow.

After about a month they started to form heads like a cabbage. I told Robin that I didn't remember anything about Vates collards forming heads in the description in the seed catalog. This was now several months after i had started the seeds and the memory of napa cabbage was buried deep inside my brain. I harvested a head, thinly sliced it, sauteed it in butter, topped it with some crispy bacon and it was sweet and delicious. Some of the best greens we had ever tasted. We were in love with those Champion Vates collards. I made a note to grow lots more of them in the spring.

Well, a couple of weeks ago i was doing research on Vates collards for the series of posts i started on the vegetable varieties we grow. Guess what? Those were not Vates collards. It was then that the long lost memory of the napa cabbage crept back to the surface of my addled brain. Aha, these are the napa cabbage!

Regular napa cabbage makes heads that are 2-3 pounds each. The Minuet variety makes heads that are about 1 pound each, perfect as a side dish for 2 people. Chef Ripert was correct, they are quite sweet. They grew quickly and were not bothered by pests even when the collards and kale growing nearby were infested with aphids. Looking back at the catalog description, it seems that they might not work here as a spring crop because the can bolt early in spring in warm climates. I am going to give them a try however and next fall i will be growing a lot of Minuet napa cabbage.
Seed Source - Johnny's Seeds

Butter Braised Napa Cabbage w/ Bacon and Egg

1 Head Minuet Napa Cabbage- 1 lb.
4 tablespoons salted butter
3 strips bacon cooked crisp
1 fresh yard egg
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in an iron skillet and allow to brown slightly. Thinly slice the cabbage. Add the thicker bottom end of the cabbage first and saute´on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Add the remaining cabbage and cook for 5 minutes more. Crack the egg into the cabbage and stir in. Keep stirring until the egg is just done. Top with crumbled bacon and serve.

Robin likes this so much she could eat the whole pan by herself.


Teena said...

Awesome! Love the info. Thanks!

Steve Oldner said...

I'm wanting to grow some NAPAs in south Louisiana. How did your fall plnating turn out?