Grit Blogs > A Long Time Coming

Does Napa-style Closed Head Chinese Cabbage Only Make Closed Head in the Fall? and Free E-Book This Weekend Only!

A photo of Shannon SaiaDo you know how when you’re in a new relationship, you tend to be willing to do things which, left to your own devices, you probably would not do? Things like chaperoning middle school field trips, or spending Monday nights in front of a television in a sports bar sucking down buffalo wings, or – my least favorite of all – camping?

I have done all of these things in the initial throes of attraction back when I was still a single girl, and I have not done a single one of them since those attractions wore off. The thing is, in order for a relationship to last, you need to be able to be yourself, and you need to be with someone with whom you feel you can be yourself. Am I right?

You may be wondering just when, exactly, I intend to meander out to the garden, and the answer is right now. Here I go, and here is the subject of this post.

My lone Minuet Chinese Cabbage plant is making a Napa-style closed head. Right outside in one of my new raised beds, even as we speak. With temperatures threatening to plunge down into the twenties tonight, he has thrown his cloak about his shoulders and is settling in for the winter.

You may not immediately grasp the significance of this confession. If you have not read my book, More Confessions of a Vegetable Lover, you will not be familiar with the passionate goings-on in my garden earlier this year between me and Minuet. Here’s the short version. I bought seeds for a Napa-style closed head Chinese cabbage, but when I planted those seeds this past spring, what sprung up was a vividly green, open-headed cabbage that continued to unfurl all spring like an endless rose. I harvested the outer leaves again and again, and enjoyed countless stir fries, all the time marveling at the mystery of how I ended up with something other than what I had ordered.

But now, with fall finally fully arrived I find that the mystery has been solved in the simplest of ways. It is that there never was any mystery. Minuet has always been a Napa-style closed head cabbage. But for some reason, this past spring, he didn’t feel that he could be a Napa-style closed head for me.

So what was he doing with me? Was it more akin to chaperoning the unruly middle schoolers with a student teacher, or camping? Either way, this past spring Minuet was obviously not really being himself.

I have to admit that my first reaction was to feel a little betrayed. I mean, why couldn’t he be himself with me? Did I smother him? When I approached him with the proposition of continuously harvesting his outer leaves did I make him feel that he had to be something other than what he was? And what does it mean that he’s decided to return to his true nature now? Is he purposely being something other than what he thinks that I want him to be? Was I deceived this past spring? Or was Minuet just – gulp – slumming with an ignorant gardener?

If I have to look honestly at myself, I think that this last explanation was the case. I admit that I do not necessarily know what I am doing in the garden. I do the best I can. I try new things, and I take the stance that everything is an experiment. So it is in that spirit that I put on my lay scientist’s hat here to form the following hypothesis: Minuet didn’t make a closed head in the spring because by the time he reached that level of maturity the weather was getting warmer instead of cooler. Which is to say that – at least in my planting zone – Minuet will only ever fully realize himself in the fall. And lest you think that he didn't make a closed head because I kept pulling off his outer leaves, that's not it. I had six heads of Minuet this spring, and I couldn't possibly keep up with eating the outer leaves of all of them. I left most of them to make closed heads - but they never did. From which I surmised that I had somehow ended up with the wrong seed in my Minuet packet.

Minuet is good in the spring, don’t get me wrong. Next year I’ll plant one or two heads and harvest their outer leaves until the weather gets the best of him. But next fall, instead of only having one or two heads to harvest leaves from, maybe I’ll plant half a dozen or so and just let the heads be.

So Minuet is out in the garden, doing his own thing – without me. And it’s cool. I can respect that. Especially when I have a dozen buxom bok choi beauties growing right there in the same raised bed beside him, all vying for my attention…

 *  *  *

 If you now feel that you can't live without reading the story of Minuet and Me in More Confessions of a Vegetable Lover, the e-book version will be FREE this weekend, October 20th and 21st. This will be the last opportunity to get this e-book for FREE before my KDP Select contract with Amazon ends and I return the e-book to other marketplaces in November.

 Don't have a Kindle? You don't need one. You can download a Kindle Reader App for free from Amazon. 

cindy murphy
10/22/2012 2:21:10 AM

Ah, Shannon. You truly do get around in the garden, don't you. First eggplant, tomato, pepper, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting. Now Minuet Napa-stye Chinese cabbage? I can't say I can blame you; I understand completely. This year my love affair was with peppers; I could not decide which I loved best - Hungarian Wax, Sweet Banana, or Poblano. In the end, instead of choosing, or dividing my time with all three, I just had them all together. The more the merrier. Enjoy your day.


s.m.r. saia
10/21/2012 11:56:28 AM

Wow, 68 bags of mulch! I've been trying to do that with mine with leaves from the yard; I won't be able to do too much till they actually fall. I thought there for a day or two that we were going to get our first frost early, but now the temps are back. 39 is as low as it's gotten so far. You have a great day too!


nebraska dave
10/20/2012 2:31:37 AM

Shannon, your up and down relationship with your garden cracks me up. I am continually snickering along through your posts as you describe the interaction between you and your plants. I'm not quite so personal with mine. Our two days of killing frost has ended the gardening season for me. Now I'm into foraging the neighborhood for grass/leaf yard waste cleanup for mulching the 7800 square feet of garden. So far I've snatched well over 100 yard waste bags from the city composting operation and spread them on my garden. With the two large bales of hay I finally got permission to remove, the garden is almost covered with four inches of mulch. The foraging will continue for another two to three weeks and perhaps another four inches of mulch will result. It's all good stuff. It was a good day in the garden spreading the 68 bags of mulch. Have a great minuet day in the garden.