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CAN ALASKANS GROW
A 125-POUND CABBAGE?

We'll know on September 4 (September 3 in U.S.) whether an American has succeeded in growing the world's heaviest cabbage. That's when the Alaskan State Fair at Palmer will hold a public weigh-off to decide the winner of this year's Great Cabbage Contest.

Cold-climate vegetables often attain a gigantic size in Alaska, because in mid-summer they enjoy up to 21 hours' sunshine a day.

Barb Everingham won the Alaskan championship in 2000, with a monster cabbage weighing 105.6 pounds (47.9 kg.) That's still the heaviest cabbage ever grown in North America's largest state, and probably anywhere else apart from Wales, where, in 1989, Dr. Bernard Lavery, in his garden at Llanharry, grew a colossal cabbage weighing 124 pounds (56.24 kg.), which is still the world record.

Alaska first held a giant cabbage contest at the State Fair in Palmer, in the fertile Matanuska-Susitna Valley, an hour by road north from Anchorage, in 1941. Colonel Ohlson, manager of the Alaska Railroad, offered $25 for the winner. Max Sherrod of the Valley collected the money for having grown what spectators thought then was a huge cabbage, weighing all of 23 pounds.

Year by year, the Great Cabbage Contest has attracted more entries, larger cabbages, and greater crowds. In 2000, Barb Everingham, from Wasilla, grew a colossal cabbage weighing 105.6 pounds, which remains the Alaskan (and probably American) record. Still, that was 18.5 pounds below Bernard Lavery's world record.

Barb said she had decided to grow cabbages after working at the gardening centre at Wal-Mart. She had disregarded advice to douse her cabbages with sugar water or inject various solutions into the stalks. She last competed in 2001, then ''retired'' to build a cabin in Talkeetna.


To call one's beloved a cabbage is not always a good pickup line around here, but it seems "chou" [French for cabbage] is a term of rich endearment among the French. Similarly unchallenged by vegetable references, the Spanish see nothing odd in praising one as "un tipo zanahorio" calling a respectful person a "carrot guy".
- Denis Horgan, The Hartford Courant, Connecticut.


Members of the Dinkel family have been called "the crowned heads of Alaska cabbagedom." Eleven-year-old Seth Dinkel, tenderly nurturing a fast-growing cabbage which at last report was five feet across, has high hopes that it will soon exceed his own weight, to win this year's contest. He took out first prize two years ago with a cabbage weighing 89.9 pounds. Third prize went to Brenna Dinkel, for a fine 74.3- pounder.

They had both been greatly helped by their grandfather, Don Dinkel, a professor emeritus of horticulture, who knows more than most of us about growing massive vegetables.

  Click to Enlarge
Click to enlargeScott Robb is another Alaskan hoping to win this year's contest. He already holds world records for giant kale, celery and rutabaga (called swedes or turnips elsewhere).

"My love affair however is with the giant cabbages," he told us by email last week. "My personal best was an 85.6 pounder grown a couple of years ago that took second place at the weigh-off.

"Barb Everingham's 105.6 pound Northern Giant would have easily broken the world record if it had only had a head. That's right - it had no head!! All leaf. So when I read of Bernard Lavery's cabbage's dimensions I wonder was it all leaf ? Not that it matters - I'm just curious.

"Anyhow I have several very nice cabbages growing along, some 5 feet across and some approaching 6 feet across. Just starting to head up, and who knows, with a little luck 100 pounds is possible."

ENGLISH CABBAGE LORE

An old English Halloween tradition found young, blindfolded women raiding the cabbage patch and picking the first cabbage they came upon. Legend had it that the cabbage's appearance foretold the woman's future husband. If the cabbage leaves were slightly open, the husband would be sociable. If they were closed tightly, he'd be the quiet type. If lots of soil clung to the root, it was a sign of the husband's future wealth. If the cabbage stalk was smooth, the man would have good character. If it was riddled with pocks and irregularities, the couple would be likely to argue a great deal.
- The Texas Monthly. (Texas is the nation's second largest cabbage grower.)
As we reported last month, the present world record holder, Bernard Lavery, formerly of Wales and now retired and living in England, says he won't try to get any of his records back if they are broken. "I've been there, worn the tee-shirt and enjoyed every minute of it," he told us. "I'm growing a few pumpkins and sunflowers for the children, and these are about my limitations for this year."
 

HOW THE ALASKA STATE FAIR BEGAN

In 1935 a farming colony was established in the Mat-Su Valley, with the intent of opening up Alaska, providing food to the military in case of war, and to give families on relief a new start. Two hundred and three families were selected from Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. They arrived in the Valley in May 1935. Four years later, 40 percent of the original colonists still remained.

Throughout the next year the colonists constructed their homes, cleared fields and built a community. By July 1936, they were ready for a celebration. The Matanuska Valley Fair Association was formed and they decided to hold a four-day Fair.
- From Alaska State Fair website.

To find out whether an Alaskan grower establishes a new world record, we suggest you visit the Anchorage Daily News website on September 4.

 

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Story first posted August 2004

Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

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