Kohlrabi is also known as German turnip or cabbage turnip and is a cousin of broccoli and cabbage. Despite its appearance, the kohlrabi is not a root crop. This unique vegetable is quite popular in European countries. You might not have heard about this vegetable. But it is widely enjoyed in culinary, raw as well as cooked. Even the green leaves of young kohlrabi are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.
It is a bulbous vegetable with leaves on the sides and it looks quite distinct. In fact, some people say it has an alien look. Kohlrabi comes in different colors like white, purple, or green, all with a similar flavor.
A fun fact about kohlrabi. This plant is named after the German word for cabbage (kohl) and turnip (rube). I can sort of understand the name the Germans give to this plant since the plant really does have a resemblance of cabbage and a turnip combined. Despite its complex looks, this plant is not at all complicated to grow.
This sputnik vegetable has a mild taste with a slight hint of cucumber and radish but sweeter. And it is crunchy in texture. The smaller kohlrabi is sweeter flavored and as it matures, it gets sharper with a more intense radish-like taste. It has an array of benefits for your health too. Containing many anti-oxidants- consuming kohlrabi can help reduce diabetes risk, as well as metabolic diseases. It also has vitamin A which is great for your eyes. Overall, it is high on nutrition and low in calories, which makes it a great addition to your diet.
You can easily learn to grow this vegetable and understand how and when to harvest kohlrabi. This can help you grow it at home with zero hassle or confusion.
When to Plant Kohlrabi & Its Growing Requirements
Before you go ahead and plant yourself kohlrabi, you may want to consider first which variety you will want to plant. All of the varieties of kohlrabi are easy to grow and the only things that differentiate them are the looks and the time they take to grow. You don’t need to concern yourself in terms of the taste of the different varieties since they all taste similar.
The green kohlrabi variety which includes Winner and the Korridor matures quickly in about 50 days, compared to other varieties that take 60 days to mature. While on the other hand, there are the purple varieties which include Kolibiri and Azur Star. These varieties are bug resistant since the insects are not very enthusiastic about eating some purple leaves. In terms of taste, these categories of varieties don’t have many differences.
Kohlrabi is a cool-season crop so it thrives best when temperatures are from 40 F to 75 F (4.4 C-23.9 C). So when to plant kohlrabi for the best yield? You should ideally sow the kohlrabi seeds at least 3-4 weeks before the last average frost date in your area. If you live in an area with a relatively warm winter, the best time to sow seeds is in late summer. This will give you a winter harvest. Early autumn frost is generally tolerable for kohlrabi.
As kohlrabi has large roots, it is not suitable for growing in pots or containers. You will need to sow it in the garden or backyard. The good news is it grows well with companion plants like celery, beets, onions, potatoes, and herbs.
Full sun for at least 6 hours each day is its minimum requirement. It also needs fertile, well-draining soil which is moist and has rich organic matter and a pH of 6.5 and 6.8. You can plant the kohlrabi several weeks before the last frost of spring which means you will have to till the soil since the soil can be hard from the frost. Well-draining soil is helpful in avoiding some rot and blight in your kohlrabi. So when you water your kohlrabi, just keep the moist soil and avoid drenching it too much.
You should sow the seeds half an inch deep in the soil. Each seed should be sown 1 inch apart from the other. You should then thin out the seedlings once they are successful- giving 5 to 8 inches of space between them.
Kohlrabi is a big drinker plant, so you will want to consider this information first before choosing which spot to pick. Furthermore, you will want to separate this plant and keep it away from tomatoes and strawberries.
Remember to keep the soil moist because otherwise, the kohlrabi will turn woody. It is also a good idea to add a dressing of aged compost.
Keep yourself vigilant for some weeds growing beside your kohlrabi, and this is especially crucial in the early days since planting. Your kohlrabi has its bulb above the ground, which means it has a poor root structure. Weeds can easily kill the kohlrabi in the beginning if they are not removed quickly.
When to Harvest Kohlrabi
The burning question is how slow or fast this vegetable matures and when to harvest kohlrabi. Typically, fast-growing kohlrabi under ideal conditions will be ready for harvest in about 50 to 70 days.
You can check the stems’ diameter to be sure of its’ ripeness. If it has reached 3 inches in diameter and is the size of a tennis ball, you must harvest it. Do not wait for the kohlrabi to grow too big. The smaller sized one has the finest and most pleasing flavor. If it is too large and over-ripe, the flavor will be off and the texture would be too tough.
While you harvest, keep a check on the base of the kohlrabi. Simply keep a sharp knife at soil level and cut the bulb from the root. You can also harvest and use the leaves from the upper part of the stem. They are typically used like cabbage leaves and they are edible as well. However, if you live in a warm climate, the leaves may be bitter.
How to Prepare Kohlrabi
First-timers often wonder how to prepare kohlrabi and what’s the best way to eat it. The good news is that this vegetable is just as tasty whether you eat it raw or cooked.
Raw kohlrabi can be thinly shaved, or grated, and then added to salads and coleslaws. It will have a juicy, crunchy bite and a slightly spicy flavor. It tastes great even on its’ own-drizzled with some olive oil or seasoning.
You can add steamed kohlrabi into practically any recipe you want. In pasta, fritters, or as sides for your main dishes- it is very versatile. It also makes really good pickles.
Kohlrabi is a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine but it tastes mild, so it works best when the recipes are simple. You can try turning kohlrabi into a puree and adding it into soups. Creamy soups are the best ones to complement kohlrabi.
You can also roast the kohlrabi with other veggies. This adds a more caramelized and sweet flavor to the vegetable and a bowl of kohlrabi mixed with your favorite vegetables can make a relaxing, healthy snack.
How to Store Kohlrabi
If you know how to store kohlrabi the right way, you can make it last much longer. You should always remove the leaves first. You can either use them or keep them for later. The kohlrabi bulb should be wrapped in a plastic bag or moist towel. Then you can place it in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Using this method you can keep using fresh kohlrabi for a week.
What if you have already cut the kohlrabi, but wish to store it for later use? You can simply wrap up the cut kohlrabi in a cling film or plastic wrap. This ensures that the vegetable won’t dry out as it stores. Smaller cut pieces should also be kept in an airtight bag or container. However, it is best if you use cut kohlrabi in several days.
For long term storage of kohlrabi, freezing it is your best option. First, you should cut it into slices and then blanch the slices in boiling water for 3 minutes. Transfer them into ice water to cool them down. Then, strain them and dry them. You can now keep the kohlrabi in airtight containers and place it in the freezer.
There’s always a first time for everything. If you haven’t already, you should definitely grow kohlrabi at home and experience its’ flavor and texture. Knowing the requirements of growing this vegetable as well as when to harvest kohlrabi means you already have a head start at this gardening activity. This vegetable will definitely make a great addition to your recipes.
Do you have any tips or thoughts you would like to share? Any questions you want to ask? If so, comment below! We also offer other guides and tips as well such as When to Harvest Leeks and When to Harvest Lavender.