Gardening Vivian | 30 May 2011 11:13 pm

Kohlrabi – What the Heck is That?

Kohlrabi is said to be the hardiest of all vegetables. It will withstand temperatures in the upper 20′s and will keep growing even after Swiss Chard has frozen out. It will keep growing if you cover the plants at night when temperatures dip into the lower 20′s. Your kohlrabi will stay alive until temperatures are consistently 25 degrees or colder.

Thought to be developed from a plant called “marrow cabbage,” kohlrabi is indeed a member of the cabbage family. Its Latin name is Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes. Its common name comes from the German words kohl, for cabbage and rabi, for turnip.

Kohlrabi was first grown about 1500 A.D. in Europe and made it to the United States by the 1800′s. Sometimes mistakenly called a root vegetable, kohlrabi shares cold hardiness with that class of vegetables and in fact tastes best if grown in cool weather.

The kohlrabi “root” is actually a swollen part of its stem and forms just above the surface of the soil. The leaves are also edible and are most often eaten like spinach, either raw or cooked.

Plant kohlrabi in spring as soon as the soil can be worked, whether you’re planting seeds or transplants. Harvest kohlrabi before hot weather arrives.?Plant for fall harvest in mid-summer, about the time you plant your late cabbages. Time your planting so you can harvest kohlrabi beginning one to two weeks prior to your first fall frost. Depending on the variety, kohlrabi matures in 38-55 days.

Plant kohlrabi in rich soil and keep well watered as kohlrabi tastes best if grown on rapidly. Sow seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. When the seedlings are a few inches high, thin to 2 to 5 inches apart. Use the thinned plants for tender stir fried greens.

Begin to harvest kohlrabi when the knobs reach about tennis ball size. Kohlrabi has a celery-like flavor but tastes a little bit more nutty than celery. Kohlrabi keeps longer than celery too. Stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator or root cellar, it will keep for several months.

Copyright Sharon Sweeny, 2009. All rights reserved.

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