Reaping What You Sow

This year, I started a new garden. When I move into a new home, it seems that creating a vegetable garden is my way of nesting. A garden helps me bond and create a symbiotic relationship with my new environment. Also, there is nothing as good as homegrown produce!

Gardening is in my blood. Even so, I had concerns over soil quality and ample, direct sun in the only logical garden space on the property. However, I jumped in with both feet and planted a small plot with a variety of easy growers that are fairly forgiving when it comes to growing conditions. The usual garden mainstays included kale, chard, spinach, cabbage, carrots, beets, beans, and zucchini. I planted tomato starts in pots and placed them in the sunniest corner I could find.

Over the summer months, I watered, weeded, mulched, and watched. I harvested and ate fresh produce daily as it became available, including vine-ripened tomatoes. My garden thrived well enough to share an abundance of greens and vegetables with friends.

Gardening helps keep me present and grounded. It is a form of active meditation. Pride and a sense of accomplishment can come with the tiniest sprout, first blossom, and definitely first bite.

There is something magical, maybe even a karmic life lesson, about growing your own food.

  • What you get out is directly proportionate to what you put in.

  • Daily attention produces the biggest yield.

  • Neglect returns nothing.

This year, I feel blessed with my bounty. I had no expectation of perfection, only an experience upon which to build on in future years. Cultivating a garden is an evolving process.

I harvested ten pounds of cabbage. Now, that may seem like a lot, but last year, I sliced fifty pounds of cabbage from my mom’s garden and helped her to make sauerkraut. That is A LOT of cabbage.

Not every year has a high yield, but when you get that bumper crop, you don’t want to waste it. I used my mom’s kraut recipe to take full advantage of my cabbage harvest.

Sauerkraut is very easy to make and extremely healthy for you to eat frequently. Fresh, fermented sauerkraut is loaded with probiotics. It is one of the most economical sources of probiotics available. Cabbage is part of the Brassica family, which most people call cruciferous vegetables. Cabbage is high in fiber and low in calories. It is nutrient-dense, including antioxidants, polyphenols, and sulfur, which makes it a superfood to deter inflammation and cancer.

Fortunately, fresh cabbage is available year-round here in the Northwest. Nevertheless, don’t let the local harvest go to waste. Fresh sauerkraut will keep for a good six months in the refrigerator. I prefer to make small batches and eat a couple of forkfuls every day or two to keep my gut microbiome healthy and fortified.

Making sauerkraut is an easy first step in “putting up” produce. Give it a try. I found a great fermenting crock at Bay, Hay, & Feed. If you are still skeptical about doing this on your own, Iggy’s makes exceptional kraut and is a Bainbridge Island based company.

Kitty’s Kraut

  • 5 pounds of thinly sliced cabbage, core, and thick veins removed, reserve 2 large leaves

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt

Place sliced cabbage and salt into the crock. Using your fist or a large muddler, pound the cabbage, compressing it until the juices are released and rise to cover the shred. It will take about 10-15 minutes of working the cabbage.

Lay the 2 large leaves across the top of the shredded cabbage and place the crock weights on top of them. This will keep the shred below the liquid and optimize the ferment.

Place water in the rim and add the crock top. This creates an airtight seal. Now, be patient and do not disturb for 1 month. Check to see if it has reached your desired sourness. If not, you can leave it up to two more weeks.

Add water to the rim as necessary. The crock will burp as fermentation is happening.

Transfer kraut and enough liquid to cover into glass jars with a tight lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to six months.

This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled to fit the size of your crock. My ten pounds of cabbage filled a 2.1-gallon fermentation crock.