Correspondence: Mark Lozer's history pages

I have been sitting in our cozy living room watching the snow blow down Main Street with the Redwings currently beating the Panthers on the TV, apple crisp baking, and the spring Jackson and Perkins catalog open on my lap. What an odd contrast to our current season this catalog is.

If you read this column regularly you know I’m no fan of our current weather. It's OK if I don’t have to leave the house, but driving to work is like a dance with death each morning, one I completely dread. I dream of cornfields with little green stalks starting to poke through, natural wildflowers popping up along the roadside and the beautiful sun coming up on the horizon. One of my co-workers said this week that at least there will be fewer mosquitos. Well, I guess there is always that.

When you think of gardening there are so many directions your mind can go. Art, Nick (my son) and I ate at a Korean restaurant in East Lansing last weekend. I have never had Korean food and it was really good. We got to talking about the differences in Asian foods and how there are so many different types. We all agreed that as with the rest of the world, each country’s basic dishes likely depend on availability of food grown locally.

One thing that stands out in all Asian cooking is cabbage. Cabbage must be a universal vegetable because every country I can think of has something made from cabbage. It was in every one of our dishes and was even pickled as an appetizer.

My personal favorite cabbage dish is sauerkraut—I can eat it cold out of the can. My son-in–law Henry would choose cabbage rolls, he loves them so much his mother made them for his wedding reception. Kimchi is Korean pickled cabbage, and my son and husband really like it, but I have a different opinion of it.

When we plant cabbage in the garden I usually only have two or three dishes in mind for it when harvested. This year I’m thinking I need to get a little more inventive. Fare from other countries is always fun to explore. I am always a little leery of the meat, but anything is a go as far as vegetables. When planning our vegetable gardens we all usually go back to what we know, but wouldn’t it be fun to step outside the box with some different versions of different vegetables? 

I’m sure to obtain different varieties of cabbage is going to involve a little on-line ordering. What would sauerkraut taste like made from Chinese cabbage? Maybe I need to see if it’s good or a flop, what’s to lose?

We have applied these principles to tomatoes and had some really good successes and some tests I don’t care to try again. Low acid tomatoes to me are not worth the garden space. In my opinion, they leave the dish they are put into tasting like something is missing or too weak. I want a tomato that stands up and says here I am and this goulash is rocking because I’m bringing the flavor.

While planning out your garden for this spring, think a little outside the box and see what happens. It might surprise you.