Dixon on ... Eating your 21st century greens

For once there is some good news for growers.

Sales of cabbages have perked up after years of declining consumer interest. Among the reasons cited for the increase is the way that several celebrity chefs have talked up the health value of cabbages. But supermarkets have done their bit, too, by offering a range of cabbage types.

Consumers like to have choices when they buy any product. Encouraging desirability through choice helped tomato growers to increase public awareness. Perhaps that is what is happening now with cabbages.

The Brassica Growers Association's "Love Your Greens" campaign, meanwhile, has striven to increase the presence of the cabbage in consumers' shopping baskets.

Whatever the reasons, these "green shoots" are welcome and need nurturing. If there is one crop that can be grown with excellence in Britain, it is the cabbage. There are ample seasonal types that carry this crop year round, from spring greens through to winter drumheads and savoys. Continued success requires high-quality products with succulence and mild flavour. They must be ready for eating as fresh salad ingredients or for cooking in stir-frys or being steamed. The image of that noxious, soggy and boiled-to-death mess that typified school lunches must be banished, once for and all.

Present the young, busy shopper with cabbage hearts that require minimal preparation and no waste in pack sizes that are easily handled. Limiting waste is increasingly important as councils make demands on householders for the separation of green and other forms of refuse. Nobody wants to fill their food bin with enormous inedible cabbage leaves, cores and stumps.

Move this crop permanently out of the doldrums and upmarket. Create desirability and image among the younger generation on tight budgets who are still seeking healthy eating and minimal preparation. Perhaps it is a reaction to austerity - but it is welcome for all that.

Professor Geoffrey Dixon is managing director of GreenGene International.

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