Kohlrabi is a vegetable for the alien files for sure! It looks like it should be on a animated movie as the main course for royalty! That’s just my imagination running away with me! So – what is kohlrabi? It is actually related so some of your more common greens of the brassica family. Like fennel it grows what appears to be a bulb above the ground. It also is a no waste veggie meaning that the entire plant (excluding the root of course) is edible. Our family first started growing it in 2017 but didn’t have the best success right away. We have learned how best to grow it in our climate Zone 8b. Let us share out notes.
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Kohlrabi comes in several varieties and colors – white, green and purple. You know I love all things purple so we generally grow the purple variety more than the others although we have grown all three. I prefer the purple varieties for more than just the color. It also seems to stand up to cold and pests the best and yields the most tender bulbs in my opinion. However even among the purple varieties there a variants in size and storage length so be sure to do your research before buying seed stock. Kohlrabi prefers cool temperatures so we plant it in Fall for a Winter harvest and again in early Spring for an early Summer harvest. Depending on how quickly Spring merges to Summer we may utilize some shade cloth to keep temperatures cooler. Kohlrabi can handle some frost but will show signs of damage if temperatures are sustained below freezing for many hours. We have grown it in the field and high tunnel. Both areas have pros and cons. Last year we had really bad infestation with aphids on the leaves of the purple variety. It was quite disgusting as you can see in the photo above. We managed to get a measure of control over some of the crop but we lost more than we harvested. On top of that we pulled the crop a little early to salvage what we could so most bulbs did not reach maturity. Having said that we really enjoy the flavor of home grown veggies and we will continue to grow them.
Kohlrabi can be direct sown or transplanted. We have the most success with transplanting. Which ever you choose be sure to plant in rich soil full of organic matter i.e. compost. Seeds are rather small so you will probably need to thin after seedlings are about 14 days old. Many resources will say thin to no less than 8 inches apart. We plant rather intensely on our farm since space is a commodity. So we plant 4 – 6 inches a part depending on whether we are planting in the high tunnel or in field.
Depending on the variety you grow and the season you grow it in you may harvest anywhere from 45 – 80 days from sowing. That is according to most seed packages. We have noticed that our purple variety is generally ready about 55 – 60 days from transplanting.
When ready to harvest we gently pull the plant from the ground and cut off the tap root. We usually will pull off any damaged leaves leaving as many as possible since these are edible.
Kohlrabi is one of those veggies we eat immediately. We sometimes begin eating before we even make it into the home. The few times we have stored it was because I was too tired after farming all day to prepare it. Here is what I do:
- For same day: Wash kohlrabi, leaves and stems. Remove greens and set a side – never throw these away! You may only get a few per plant but these can be blanched like cabbage and collards and frozen. Pull them out later to add to soups & stews!
- To peel or not to peel...Peeling is more a less something you will do depending on when your Kohlrabi is harvested. Skins of the Winter harvested kohlrabi are more tender than say late Spring or early Summer harvested ones. Our advice is to wash it well then just try it raw with the skin on and see if its something that pleases your palate. We peel unless the bulb is very small. Always peel right before cooking as there can be a slight color change once skin is removed (as with an apple)
- For next day – two weeks: Do not wash. Wrap entire plant loosely in paper towel and place into a slip into a zip lock bag and place in vegetable crisper drawer.
- Freeze: We have not yet frozen kohlrabi but these steps seem that they will work perfectly for the job!
Now are you ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor? I remember when we first tasted kohlrabi. It was quite fun. We love veggie firsts. It is kind of like returning to your baby days as an adult or kid. Here is our first taste of kohlrabi. Since that time we have only cooked kohlrabi one way and that is roasted. Simply peel, chop into about 1/4 inch pieces, coat with olive oil, season with garlic salt and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Put into a 400 degree oven for 20 -25 minutes. If you want to preserve the crunch then perhaps cook 18 minutes.
You may have guessed from our video that our favorite way enjoy Kohlrabi is raw. We sometimes eat alone or pair with other garden fresh ingredient to create a refreshing slaw. You could call it a root slaw but we simply call it Garden Slaw. Since it is made from seasonal veggies it is a seasonal dish. We are about to make it for the first time this Winter in the next week or so. We will do a video showing just how easy it is to create this delicious and colorful dish! Stay tuned as we grow, preserve and eat!