Never heard of kohlrabi? You’re not alone. Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea, Gongylodes group) is a relatively unknown and odd-looking bulbous vegetable in the brassica family.
Learn how to grow kohlrabi, and you won’t be sorry. The enlarged stem of kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked, and tastes a little like broccoli stems but with a milder and sweeter flavor.
The word “kohlrabi” is German for “cabbage turnip”. There are 2 main types of kohlrabi, those with green or white skin and those with purple skin. Kohlrabi grows quickly; try interplanting it with slower-growing plants, and the kohlrabi will be ready for harvest before the other plants get large.
Here are 5 tips for growing kohlrabi:
1. Give kohlrabi what it needs to grow well
Grow kohlrabi in rich, well-drained soil high in organic matter and compost. Keep soil evenly moist throughout the growing season to keep it from becoming woody. Mulch soil to preserve moisture and prevent weeds. Although kohlrabi grows best in cool weather, it does need full sun – at least 6 hours.
2. Plant kohlrabi at the right time
Kohlrabi prefers cool temperatures and doesn’t mind a mild frost. Hot weather and dry soil result in tough bitter-tasting woody bulbs. In cooler areas, plant kohlrabi for a spring or fall harvest. In warmer areas, plant kohlrabi in the fall for a winter harvest.
When growing kohlrabi in the low desert of Arizona:
- Start seeds indoors: September 15 – December
- Plant seeds outside: August 15 – November
- Plant transplants outside: October 15 – January
For a continuous harvest, plant kohlrabi every 2-3 weeks.
3. Plant kohlrabi from seed or transplants
- To start seeds indoors, start seeds 6 to 8 weeks before planting. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep. Transplant in garden 6 to 8 inches apart.
- To direct sow outdoors, sow seeds 1 inch apart and ¼ inch deep. Thin plants to 6-8 inches apart when seedlings are 2-3 inches tall.
- If you buy transplants, look for healthy plants with green leaves and uncrowded roots. Avoid buying overgrown plants or transplants with yellowed leaves or aphids.
4. Harvest kohlrabi correctly
Harvest bulbs when small and flavorful, and before the weather gets hot. Begin harvesting when bulbs are about 2 inches wide. Cut off bulbs just above ground level with a sharp knife, leaving roots in the ground.
5. Enjoy kohlrabi a variety of ways
Peel the kohlrabi bulb before eating, but don’t discard the leaves. The tender young leaves are delicious and a good spinach substitute. The stem can be eaten fresh like an apple once peeled. Slice kohlrabi for a salad or enjoy it with dips. Kohlrabi is also good in stir-fries, sautéed, or steamed. Store kohlrabi for 2-4 weeks in the refrigerator.