Healthy, Organic Napa Cabbage

It’s been one year since Lisa Fuller and husband Sun left One Song Farm in Moloa’a. At Kumu Aina in Kalihiwai, they have made quick work of setting up their bio-intensive farm and a market garden, which grows vegetables sold under the name One Song Produce.

Bio-intensive farming is an organic agricultural system that focuses on maximum yield from the minimum area of land. No larger than a half-acre, these small-scale farms are based on deep soil preparation, close plant spacing, compost and crop diversity. The small gardens can produce 600 to 900 pounds of food, require up to 30 minutes a day of time and can generate up to $250,000 per year. Up to 88 percent less water is used when compared to conventional agriculture, and almost 100 percent less energy is used. Many of today’s bio-intensive techniques were present in ancient Chinese, Greek and Mayan agriculture.

On Sunday, May 19, from 9 to 11 a.m., the couple will lead “The Garden as Teacher” workshops. Lisa will teach bio-intensive farming for the novice, and Sun will lead a master gardening class. Topics include soil testing and balancing, bed preparation, using organic fertilizer, plant selection and rotation, benefits of insects, weed management, creating quality compost and maintaining your garden from seed to table.

What’s growing now: arugula, basil, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, cilantro, daikon, eggplant, green beans, kai choy, kale, lettuce (eight varieties including romaine), Malabar spinach, mizuna, onions, perpetual spinach, radicchio, shallots, taro, tat soi, tomatoes, turnips.

NAPA CABBAGE As an Asian cabbage, napa is mild, with light green lacy leaves and not as dense as American head cabbage. Napa is cylindrical and grows up to 18 inches long and 6 inches in diameter. Also known as Chinese white cabbage, celery cabbage and won bok, it has been grown in China since the 5th century.

Season: Napa cabbage grows best in cool temperatures. On Kaua’i it can be grown year-round, but does best in fall, winter and spring months. Napa cabbage takes an average of 115 days to grow from seed to edible plant.

What to look for: Select heads with sturdy, green leaves. Tiny black dots on the creamy white stalk indicate age. Avoid ones with soft centers at the base.

Storage: Placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator, napa cabbage will last up to one week.

Tip: Steaming is considered the most beneficial method of cooking napa cabbage, and cooking releases its beneficial qualities.

Preparation: Napa cabbage can be eaten raw, blanched, steamed or stuffed. More than five minutes of cooking and the texture will become unpleasant. Napa pairs well with soy sauce, sesame oil, mustard oil, juniper berries, rosemary, dill, cream, butter, blue cheese, feta, potatoes, leeks and bacon.

Health benefits: Cabbage is highly valued nutritionally as a good source of vitamins K and C and glutamine, an amino acid with anti-inflammatory properties. Short-cooked or raw, cabbage shows cancer-preventive benefits – long-cooked cabbage does not have measurable benefits.

One Song market produce can be found at: Farmers Markets: Namahana (Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon). Restaurant: The Garden Cafe. Grocery: Healthy Hut.

For workshop reservations, call Lisa at 635-3020.

NAPA SALAD

Lisa gave me the recipe for this colorful and flavorful salad, which can be served alongside grilled fish, beef, chicken or tofu. I found all of the ingredients at the farmers market and used purple basil instead of Italian, and replaced the chili pepper with 2 teaspoons of Bard’s Hawaiian Hot Sauce, now available at Tiki Tacos. Makes four servings.

* 1 bunch arugula, chopped
* 2 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
* 1 large mango, cubed
* 2 carrots, shredded
* 1/4 cup each mint, basil and cilantro leaves

Combine in a large salad bowl.

Toss with dressing to coat and serve immediately.

Sweet and savory napa salad Sun specializes in growing produce from saved garden seeds

For Dressing:

* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
* 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
* 1 tablespoon soy sauce
* 2 tablespoons Kaua’i honey
* 1 Hawaiian chili pepper, diced

Put ingredients in jar, cover, shake and drizzle over vegetables.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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