When the cool winter wind is blowing around your nose, and the temperatures drop towards freezing point, it’s time for most cultures to spend time in their cozy living rooms.
Well, not exactly so in the Northern part of Germany. The inhabitants of the flat regions above the Harzer highlands get very excited once the kale season starts. In theory, you can grow kale throughout the whole year. However, it can taste very bitter during the summer months. The first frost ensures that the bitter components of kale disappear so that the green leaves are more delicious. Then, it’s time to pack the Bollerwagen and walk through the snowy countryside to celebrate this event.
A Bollerwagen is a wooden vehicle that is particularly popular among fathers and those who eventually want to become one. On Ascension Day, the self-declared Father’s Day in Germany, the male species fill their Bollerwagen with plenty of beer and walks through the fields, bawling songs that you can hear from afar.
The Bollerwagen is also the perfect vehicle to pull the annual Christmas tree behind you, or to go on trips with kindergarden kids. Or to march through the fields at minus 3 degrees to celebrate the cabbage.
Between November and February, there is such a thing called the cabbage walk in Germany. The concept is very simple: You meet up with your friends to walk to an Inn that serves kale. In order to make the walk entertaining, Northern Germans often play Boßeln, a sort of street bowling. The aim of the game is to throw a metal ball over a specified distance with as few throws as possible.
Once the group reaches the inn, it’s time for the traditional Grühnkohlessen. The meal consists of kale, Pinkel (a smooked sausage), and potatoes. As simple as that. The food itself may take a while to get used to, as it’s not the most aesthetic looking dish. But as soon as you get past the sight, it tastes delicious. Especially after walking in the cold for hours. The person who manages to eat the most, is the cabbage king. The traditional cabbage meal also involves a lot of dark beer. The event usually ends up with lots of drunk Germans and can be quite a wild celebration.
The cabbage walk would be a great thing to introduce to the Scottish culture – especially for the looks of other people when you play street bowling. If you mention that you will soon be coronating a cabbage king, Scots will probably not take you seriously anymore. But particularly the relatively hilly roads and the lack of a Bollerwagen, wouldn’t make the cabbage walk feel the same. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t have the dish by itself.
Kale is very healthy and nutritious – and is a seasonal product that doesn’t need to be imported from other countries. It might take some work to convince the Scottish folk to have kale by itself, but there are plenty of recipes out there that make the cabbage tasty and less…kaleish. The original Pinkel sausage might be harder to find here but have a look at an Eastern European shop as they usually have a good choice of Continental sausages.
Here are the two recipes for the traditional way to prepare kale: