The Joy of Savoy Cabbage
Thursday, November 8, 2007
For the life of me, I can't figure it out. The produce bins aren't piled high with Savoy cabbage, even though this is the perfect time of year to enjoy it. Granted, it has a more delicate leaf and therefore does not keep or ship as well as hard-head types. But then, neither does lettuce. My friend Pauline, a transplant from Northern Ireland, is peeved by the lack of Savoy cabbage in her adopted home. Her mother would come home and announce grandly, "I've bought us a nice Savoy," as if it were a bag of gold nuggets. "Why can't I buy one here?" Pauline wails.
I make a point of growing Savoys, not only to present one now and then to Pauline, but also because it's my favorite, too. A Savoy forms a round head just like the usual kind, but its leaves are packed more loosely, and they're thinner, their color a gorgeous deep green outside and a paler green within. Their chief feature is a crinkled texture seemingly designed to hold butter more luxuriously.
In fact, the Savoy has lent its name to this characteristic: A crinkled spinach, kale or lettuce leaf is one that is "savoyed." The origin of the name comes from the popularity of crinkle-leaf cabbage in the French Savoie, an Alpine region whose boundaries were long disputed with Italy. But the cabbage's popularity has clearly spread as far as Northern Ireland and, most likely, everywhere else but here.
If you have Savoy cabbages in your garden now, the cooler fall weather will make them deliciously sweet, but don't let them sit too long after they've formed heads. Cut them just above the outermost leaves, and they might sprout a few mini-heads to harvest later. Steam or saute the cabbage lightly and briefly to preserve the texture and the flavor, so much more delicate than that of the firm-headed types. Savoy is the perfect stuffing cabbage, supple enough to wrap around a filling without having to be blanched. (Some cooks stuff the heads whole.) You can pickle the leaves in salt to make a Korean kimchi or use them raw in a deluxe coleslaw.
If you're not growing Savoys, make a note to start some indoors in mid-February to set out three weeks later for an early crop. Savoy Express from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds ( http:/