Returning Cabbages

by Sandy L on November 16, 2011

So we’re at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago and it is Krauting Season.  This means that we usually draw a big crowd at the farmer’s market.  People saw us filling up pillowcase after pillowcase of cabbages and couldn’t help but ask..what does one do with 200 pounds of cabbage?  A couple of people guessed stuffed cabbages, but they were way off, unless we were making stuffed cabbage to feed an entire church fair.    Well, we were making Sauerkraut, and to those who like that sort of thing have said it’s the best Sauerkraut they’ve ever had.  Sour with still a little crunch to it.  I even gave a jar to a chef I knew who was featured in Bon Apetit magazine and he said the same thing.  It’s great stuff and nothing like what you get in the stores in those plastic baggies.

Anyway, if you read my post from last year, you’ll learn that Babci is very particular about her ingredients. It has to be a special variety of winter cabbage of a certain size, picked after the first frost and made with spring water…and not that stuff from the store either..real spring water from a spring, untouched by human hands or processing equipment.

On years when there is a lot of rain, sometimes the cabbages get a line of rot through the middle of them (during a wet patch of the growing season).  This will absolutely ruin a batch of kraut, even if you try to use the rest of the cabbage.Half of the cabbages she bought had rot in them, so back to the farmer we went.   This is not the first time, but the second time my mom made me return cabbages.  The first time was about 3 years ago.  This time, I knew it was a wet summer, so I told her to cut them open before taking them, but she couldn’t be bothered.  Anyway, I threatened not to take them back and to just live with losing the $12 that the cabbages cost.  No WAY! She nagged me daily until I took her back there.  I actually snuck in and gave the farmer $12 and told him to pretend it was his money.   She ended up buying some local honey instead. She still got a barrel of kraut out of her buy.  She purchased cabbages from 2 different farms and one was fine and the other was not.

Other People Do it Too

At any rate, there is a moral to this story.  The farmer was actually glad we came and told him his cabbages were rotten inside.  He told us that there was this one farm he was using that had a bad batch of cabbages they discovered.  They supposedly abandoned that one variety but told him the other 3 varieties were supposedly fine.  Like many other products, sometimes you don’t know there is an issue until you get customer feedback and he was visibly concerned that he sold rotten cabbage to his other customers too.   With cabbage, there is no way of telling the condition until you cut them open.  He even said that this other farm that he sourced the cabbages from had other customers that returned the cabbages right to the farm itself.  So not only did Babci return these cabbages but other people did too.  I suppose this is another side benefit of buying locally from farmers.  They care. I doubt my local grocery store would take back rotten produce. Heck, some of it is already rotting in the store to begin with.

Have you ever returned produce?  Did you know you could do that?



{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly November 16, 2011 at 8:26 AM

We cannot get cabbage to grow! I know it can be done because our friend had great luck but it’s just not happening for us.
I think it’s the nicest thing you can do for a small business. Most small farmers depend on word of mouth and if you don’t give them feedback it can potentially really hurt their business.
Last year I did the grocery shopping and every Wed. I would go to this one store to buy produce. It was a new store to our town and had been started by the guys who originally started Wild Oats (which is now owned by Whole Foods). Their idea is to bring fresh organic food to customers at reasonable prices.
A few weeks in a row I got fruit that was rotting before it ripened. I mentioned it to a cashier and he told me to bring the receipt in and get a refund (he begged me). The next week I did but I also talked to the produce guy. He apologized and mentioned they were having refrigerator issues. He taught me how to pick out fruit. Now when I go in I ask for their recommendation and I’m a loyal customer.


Sandy L December 1, 2011 at 2:14 AM

Molly – babci doesn’t bother either. They take up a lot of space for what you get back…1 head. I guess people who are passionate about food care enough to say something if something’s amiss.


Money Beagle November 16, 2011 at 8:57 AM

My wife bought a watermelon from the grocery store that was rotten on the inside. She called the store and they marked it down in a ledger and told her to bring her receipt next time she was in the store and they refunded the money next time she went (the following week). The person at the counter actually asked why she didn’t bring the melon back. As if they’d want a week old, cut up watermelon. I think they realized the stupidity of the question as soon as it was asked.


Kris @ Everyday Tips November 18, 2011 at 9:00 AM

I don’t buy whole watermelon anymore for this very reason. I get so frustrated when I plan on serving watermelon for a meal/dessert to only find mush inside. I didn’t take my melons back either because of the mess. I should have done what your wife did Money Beagle.

Did the farmer keep your money Sandy?


Sandy L December 1, 2011 at 2:15 AM

Yes, he kept the money. I’m fine with that. We give him a lot of business throughout the year and I want to keep the relationship intact. He was okay giving it back though, but I told him no.


Nansuelee November 16, 2011 at 10:57 AM

I have returned watermelon and veggie trays. The watermelon was mealy and mushy and not eatable. When I got home and opened a veggie tray I had purchased to save time it smelled horrible! Both stores gleadly gave me my money back. Like anything else most store do not want to sell bad products.


Linda November 16, 2011 at 12:21 PM

I’ve never returned produce. Most of the time when I’ve had produce rot on me it’s because I didn’t use it fast enough. The one exception to this is avocados; it seems really easy to get bruised avocados at the store so when I buy them I usually get unripe ones on purpose and have them ripen at home. It helps, but isn’t a perfect solution.

I’m intrigued by Babci’s sauerkraut method. I’ve been reading a lot of books and recipes about lacto-fermented foods and every sauerkraut recipe I’ve seen does not call for water at all. I understood the cabbage just needed salting and that the juices were released by the cabbage itself. What does she use the spring water for? Or am I asking her to give away a secret? 😉


retirebyforty November 16, 2011 at 6:56 PM

I’ll have to drop by the farmer market and see if they have any cabbages this weekend. I love Sauerkraut, but don’t really have it very often. I’ll have to look up some recipe and try making them.


Money Reasons November 18, 2011 at 5:27 PM

No, I had no idea you could return produce! I hope this doens’t put you and your Babci too far behind!

lol, you giving $12 reminds me of pitching in a few dollars on my folk’s bill for tip after they start to leave.


allison @ cheapdanny November 18, 2011 at 8:48 PM

hhmm.. never knew you could return produce. I always thought it’s just my luck!

thanks for sharing…


101 Centavos November 19, 2011 at 7:03 AM

I’ve returned a whole watermelon. Five bucks is five bucks.
I feel Molly’s pain, as I’ve not had good luck with cabbages either. Maybe I haven’t found the right spot or the right variety yet. This year I got a lot of leaves, and two heads the size of a (small) coconut. Better luck next season, I suppose.


Crystal November 21, 2011 at 1:20 PM

I return gross watermelons. I refuse to pay $4-$7 for something I can’t eat. 🙂


growingmygirls November 26, 2011 at 10:25 AM

I didn’t know you could return produce. Thanks for the tip. I buy a lot of lemons, and often find they go bad quickly. Maybe now I can summon the courage to take them back.


Invest It Wisely November 27, 2011 at 12:55 PM

I’ve never returned rotten produce — I just throw it out and live with the loss. This has not happened very often, though.

I have never made raw saurkraut from scratch, but I have recently been learning from my grandmother how to make really delicious cooked saurkraut — the stuff is great. 🙂

Hope that you are having a great Thanksgiving weekend. 🙂


Sandy L December 1, 2011 at 2:17 AM

All..well I guess my reader base is a lot bolder than I thought..people returning fruit left and right. Well, if you haven’t before, now you know it’s been done and often. Thanks for everyone who shared their own experiences.


Trung July 20, 2012 at 8:08 PM

Thanks, Kate. I’ve used their insecticidal soap, but I admit, I’ve styaed out of the garden center this year and ordered seeds online, so I have no idea what’s available. I styaed away from cruciferous vegetables and squash, so I shouldn’t have to spray anything, I hope!


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