Head To Head

cabbage-edmonton-stalbert-alberta

In the market garden days, we would grow two types of cabbage: early season and storage. 

Early season cabbage was very tender and cracked easily. Because of their tender skin and high water content in their leaves, the heads were also prone to splitting after a heavy rain. I remember standing in a ten acre field of early cabbage the morning after a heavy rainfall and literally hearing the popping sound as one cabbage head after another split apart.

The storage cabbage was much different than the early season type. It formed dense heads with tougher leaves and was not at all prone to splitting. One variety of storage cabbage that we grew for many years was called "Stonehead"; well named because it was heavy and hard like a rock.

During the month of August we packed the Stonehead cabbage into 50 pound bags, tied and labeled them, and shipped them to the wholesaler the next day.

In the cabbage patch, one person would stand over a netted bag that held 50 pounds of cabbage at capacity, and catch the cabbage thrown to him by two "cutters". It took a bit of coordination and good hands, but a bagger would alternate between the two cutters, catching and dropping the cabbage heads into the bag as they were lobbed to them. By the time the first cutter cut and tossed the cabbage to the bagger, the second cutter was ready to toss his head.

 With experienced cutters and baggers the movements were smooth, seamless, and efficient. But like any skill, there is that "awkward" period commonly referred to as "the learning curve".

 I remember my cousin helping out with the Stonehead cabbage harvest. He jumped into the bagger role thinking it was safer and easier than constantly bending over to cut cabbage with a long sharp knife. He started out quite well – for a rookie – and had pretty darn good eye-hand coordination. But for some reason during his inaugural bagging event, he had a small lapse in concentration. After catching a cabbage coming from my brother, he somehow failed to remember that another one was coming shortly thereafter from me. Combine that lapse in attentiveness with my aim being just a touch off, and there was a collision; a tête-à-tête, so to speak. When the Stonehead and human head collided, both heads hit the ground.

I know that I shouldn’t have, but I ran to my cousin, jumped over him and checked the condition of the cabbage. I said to my cousin, "It’s OK, the cabbage is fine". 

My cousin got to his feet, a little dazed but none the worse for wear…but I did get the distinct impression that he didn’t share my sense of humour.

~Jim Hole