This odd-looking vegetable is largely unknown to North American gardeners, but Kohlrabi shouldn't be dismissed for its bizarre appearance. Kohlrabi is an easy-growing vegetable that matures quickly and tastes delicious. It's generally ready for harvest in 6 weeks, and it has a flavor similar to broccoli or a mild-tasting turnip or cabbage. The name Kohlrabi is from the German words for cabbage, 'Kohl', and turnip, 'Rübe'. Truly, the only way to know the taste is to grow some! They don't take up much room, so even if you're not sure about this unique vegetable, plant a few and see how you like them.
What Is Kohlrabi?
A vegetable in the Brassica family (the same family as broccoli), Kohlrabi is light-green or purple and bulb-shaped. The bulbous part is actually the stem, and is the desirable edible portion of the vegetable. Many long-stemmed leaves grow out of the bulbous stem in a long arching alien-like fashion. These are also light-green or purple (depending on the variety of Kohlrabi). All parts of the plant are edible, including the globular stem, branches, and leaves.
The circular stem grows entirely above ground, which means this vegetable is perfect for growing in places with shallow soil. When you harvest, you pull up the entire plant. This is not a cut and come again vegetable. The bulbs are crisp, tender, sweet, and packed with flavor. It is excellent raw or lightly cooked. Kohlrabi is also highly nutritious!
How To Grow KohlrabiKohlrabi is a cool-weather plant, and doesn't do well in high heat. It also doesn't tolerate frost. If you live in a northern climate, plant Kohlrabi 3-4 weeks before the last spring frost. If you're in a warmer climate, plant Kohlrabi in late summer so it can mature for a winter harvest.
- Plant Kohlrabi seeds in full sun.
- Sow seeds 1/4" deep and 2" apart, in rows 10-12" apart.
- Once the seeds are 2-3" tall, thin them to 6" apart.
- Weed regularly and carefully, being careful not to disturb the roots.
- Water consistently; Kohlrabi need about 1" of water per week.
- When the Kohlrabi is matured – round, firm, and approximately 2-4" diameter – cut it off at ground level.
- Cut off the branching leaf stems to eat separately or include them in the dish as well.
- Don't let mature Kohlrabi sit in the ground too long. It gets tough and bitter the longer it sits. This is one vegetable that does not get better with maturity.
- Harvested Kohlrabi can be stored in the refrigerator up to 4 weeks.
- If the outer skin of the Kohlrabi gets tough from being stored too long or because it is past maturity, peel it before preparing. The inside is likely still flavorful and tender.