The Competitive World of Giant Cabbage Growing
With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, we got to thinking about Irish cuisine. At or near the top of that list has got to be Corned Beef and Cabbage. A quick online search will give you more recipes for the traditional dish than you could likely ever be able to try and it becomes quickly obvious that cabbage is a staple Irish food beyond corned beef and cabbage. For what it’s worth, at Medius Ag we are more interested in the type of cabbage that would be used as opposed to the number of different recipes. After all, you cannot have corned beef and cabbage without cabbage. So what, exactly, is the cabbage used for the unofficial Official St. Patrick’s Day menu? Or is it the official Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day menu? Either way, what kind of cabbage are we looking for?
The Spruce Eats reports that of the more than 400 types of cabbage grown in the world, there are four common types that we use here in the United States: green, red or purple, savoy, and napa. Since it is St. Patrick’s Day and it is the most common of the common cabbage varieties, we will focus on green cabbage. Additionally, in a highly scientific review of the first three recipes that showed up in our internet search for “corned beef and cabbage recipes,” all of them called for head cabbage. So our focus will be on green head cabbage. But regardless of color, cabbage is part of the species Brassica oleracea, which is part of the mustard family and also includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi. The UMass Extension service has a helpful fact sheet on Brassica crops, or “cole crops.”
The term “cole crops” refers to waxy-leaved Brassicas of European origin, of the species Brassica oleraceae. Cabbage is the most widely grown and easy to grow of the cole crops.
Now that we have narrowed down our subject to green cabbage, where does it come from? Unfortunately, USDA does distinguish between green and red/purple cabbage in its National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports. But according to NASS, the value of cabbage produced in the U.S. in 2019 was $511 million for 22.2 million hundredweight (cwt). Perhaps not surprisingly, California was tops on the production list at $204 million and 6.5 million cwt. Number two was “Other States” ($101M / 3.6M cwt), followed by New York ($82.4M / 4.4M cwt), Florida ($58.4M / 3M cwt), Georgia ($30.7M / 1.9M cwt), Michigan ($18.7M / 1.5M cwt), and Wisconsin ($15.6M / 1.3M cwt).
We would be doing you, our valued reader, a disservice if we did not drill down on the “Other States” category for a moment. Can you guess where the largest green cabbage to date has been grown, according to the Guinness Book of World Records? If you guessed Palmer, Alaska, you would be right! In 2012, Scott Robb grew a green head of cabbage to the whopping size of 138.25 lbs. That’s a lot of corned beef and cabbage.
As you can see in the video, the annual Cabbage Weigh-off at the State Fair is quite the event in Palmer, Alaska.
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