I have nothing at all against cabbage. In fact, I like it—in moderation. I don’t grow it for two reasons. First, even a supermarket-sized head of cabbage would go bad long before I finished eating it. It is not a vegetable sized for a single person living alone.
Second, moose adore cabbage—or anything else in the cabbage (cole) family. They will go down a row of cabbages, taking a bite out of each head. I’ve grown broccoli in pots, behind a six-foot chain-link fence, but for me, cabbage just isn’t worth the trouble.
Still, cabbage and cole crops in general really love Alaskan summers. Lots of people grow them here. They boast of their size. So it is no real surprise that the vegetable heart of state fairs here in Alaska tends to be the giant cabbage weigh-in.
There are other prize ribbons for the heaviest vegetable: zucchini, pumpkin, round squash, long squash, cucumber, turnip, rutabaga, beet, radish, kohlrabi, and tomato all get ribbons for the largest. (Notice that all but the tomato are either cole crops or cucurbits?) But they get ribbons like any other class. The giant cabbage winner gets a cash prize of a dollar a pound, and the competition is cutthroat, though more for the honor than the money. Potential entrants are guarded from moose, fed and watered as carefully as any of the animals shown, and anxiously watched over by their growers. Finally, the first Saturday of the fair, comes the great event: the giant cabbage weigh-in, announced by itself in the fair entry book.
This year’s winner in the adult division was 62.99 pounds, the weight proudly displayed, along with the championship ribbon, on the winning cabbage. Even the junior winner was a respectable 43.34 pounds.
What one does with a cabbage of this size is a matter of speculation. Invite the whole neighborhood in for a celebration, and sacrifice the winner to make cole slaw? Make a very large batch of sauerkraut? Perhaps a Great Pye large enough for four and twenty ravens? (No, that’s not totally crazy; I have a cookbook of English traditional recipes, and the one for a Great Pye is based on cabbage. And we certainly have enough ravens in Alaska.)
Whatever the ultimate fate of the winner, it reigns in glory for the week of the fair.