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What Is Kohlrabi? Plus How to Grow and Prepare It

I used to work in my family's restaurant and helped run it. I love good food, and I've cooked family meals for over 60 years.

Kholrabi

Kholrabi

An Unusual Vegetable That Is Well Worth Trying

Most people have probably seen kholrabi at their local vegetable shop or market, but many people have not actually tried it. In this article, I'd like to tell you a bit about it.

I first tried it myself when I was about 10 years old. At the time, our family lived in Zambia, in central Africa, and my mother grew this vegetable in our garden.

Kohlrabi belongs to the Brassica family. This means it's related to cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, although it doesn't look like any of them. It is a pale green, bulbous vegetable, and it has two edible parts: the bulbous portion (which is actually the stem) and the green leaves.

What Can You Do With Kholrabi?

Quite a lot really:

  • Eat it raw (for instance, sliced thinly and put in a salad, or grated)
  • Roast it like parsnip or roast potatoes
  • Stew it
  • Steam it
  • Boil it
  • Stir-fry it
  • Curry it
Kholrabi, including its leaves

Kholrabi, including its leaves

The word kohlrabi comes from the German words kohl and rabi, meaning "cabbage" and "turnip", respectively. This name refers to the shape rather than the family, brassica.

The leaves and bulbous part of kohlrabi grow just above the ground. The bulbous part, which is actually a swollen stem, tastes like the stem of broccoli, and the texture is very much like a radish. It should be eaten whilst fairly young and small, as it gets a bit tough and fibrous if allowed to grow large. The leaves are also edible, and they are used a bit like cabbage or kale, as part of a meal. They can also be added to soup or stew.

How to Grow Kohlrabi in the Garden

Kohlrabi is very easy to grow. It matures about 8 to 12 weeks after planting the seeds. Unlike many members of the brassica family, they don't take up much room, so you can afford to experiment with a few plants without them taking over your vegetable patch.

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Plant the seeds between March and July (in the Northern Hemisphere), and if successive crops are required, plant a further lot of seeds two or three weeks after the first planting, and so on during the growing season.

They should be planted in well-drained fertile ground and then kept watered and fertilized during their growth. Do not allow the plants to dry out, as it will cause the bulb to become fibrous. They grow best in cooler weather, but they do need sunshine. They can be grown in full sun or partial shade.

Harvest the kholrabi when the bulb is just a little bigger than a golf ball, as they are at their sweetest then. They take about 15 weeks from planting to harvest time. One seed produces one kohlrabi. The seeds are strong, so you don't have to plant a lot more than are actually needed.

Preparing Kohlrabi

The skin of very young kohlrabi is edible, but as it ages the skin toughens, so you will need to peel it. Use a potato peeler or a kitchen knife to peel off the skin.

The vegetable can then be sliced, chopped into small cubes or larger pieces, or grated, depending on your recipe.

Of Course, Not Everyone Likes Kohlrabi

To be frank, it's not one of my favorite vegetables, but I'm of the opinion that it's always good to try new things and to have a bit of variety in your life. Otherwise, we'd all be eating whatever it was they ate in the Stone Age.

Different people have different tastes in food, and I find kohlrabi a little bit bland. But then my taste veers toward hot and spicy—chili and black pepper are my most-used condiments. If I were eating anything as mild as kohlrabi, I would always hot it up to give it a bit of a kick. Am I a food vandal? The coin is still up in the air!

Recipes

I'm not going to give you detailed kohlrabi recipes, as there are many great ones you can easily find online. My intention with this article was simply to describe the vegetable, whet your appetite, and then point you in the right direction.

Below are two of the best articles I've found online about kohlrabi:

A Useful and Slightly Humorous Visual Description of Kohlrabi

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