Kohlrabi, this year’s “trial” crop

Kohlrabi “Early White Vienna”

Each year since the potager began, I’ve picked a crop for testing and evaluation. One year it was peas, another it was spinach, another beets. I find as many varieties as I can and have space to grow, but also keep in mind that to keep costs reasonable only my “usual” seed companies are included to avoid additional shipping costs. This year’s crop is kohlrabi, a member of the brassica family.

Kohlrabi may be unfamiliar to many, but it was a staple in my mother’s garden so I’ve eaten it, and loved it since childhood. “Early White Vienna” was the variety we grew, mainly because that was the only one local stores carried back in those days. It was always sliced and served raw, and was often a substitute for salad when Mother was especially busy.

Kohlrabi “Early Purple Vienna”

When I moved to the homestead in southern Indiana, I felt very adventurous when I planted “Purple Vienna” kohlrabi in addition to the white. I actually like it just as well, if not better, and the color makes a nice contrast in the garden beds. It’s only purple on the outside, and white inside. Discovering that kohlrabi is delicious when steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper was exciting as it added another vegetable to our menu rotation, somewhat similar in flavor to turnips. It can also be shredded or chopped to become a “slaw” or fried like cabbage. Just think of it as the member of the cabbage family that it is, and that will give you an idea of the flavor.

Kohlrabi can be planted in spring, either direct seeded once soil temps reach about 50 degrees F, or started indoors for an even earlier crop. I’ve read that it can be planted much earlier, but in the times that I’ve done that (like last year!) the young sprouts (These were about 3″ tall) all froze and turned to mush in that mid-May freeze we experienced. So, my advice is to wait. Some folks have said it dislikes being transplanted, but I haven’t found that to be a problem. I usually plant transplants, and also seed a row at the same time for a succession of crops. It does prefer cool weather, and may become woody and a bit sharp in very hot, dry weather. Keeping it watered helps. Seed again in early August for a fall crop (at least that works here in Zone 5a.) It holds up to frosts and light freezes in the late fall garden much better than in spring for some reason, and like turnips, seems to get a bit sweeter. Long lasting in ground or in cold storage, kohlrabi is a good choice for extending the growing season. I’ve kept them in the refrigerator for 4 months with no apparent change in taste or texture.

Unfortunately, like other members of the brassica family, kohlrabi is a delight to cabbage worms. Some people grow them under netting (I have just used cheap tulle from the fabric store, held down with bricks) or routine spraying with Bt, an organic product that when ingested by caterpillars is deadly. Do be careful not to spray on a breezy day, when it might carry onto flowers that attract good butterflies because Bt does not discriminate between good worms and bad worms.

Kohlrabi “Grand Duke”

When I began “collecting” varieties to trial this year I settled on the following:

  1. “Early White Vienna” because I know I’ll get a crop no matter what. 50 days
  2. “Early Purple Vienna” because I have lots of seed leftover, and we like it. 60 days
  3. “Grand Duke,” a hybrid and All-American selection in 1979 that reportedly holds well as the weather warms without getting woody. 50 days
  4. “Winner” another hybrid said to be even longer lasting over a longer period and still keeps its tender quality and good flavor. 50 days
  5. “Quickstar” a third hybrid that is slow to bolt and more uniform that some. 50 days

I chose not to grow “Kossack” even though it was available, because it is a hybrid that grows to the size of a bowling ball! I love kohlrabi raw or cooked, but that just seems like too much kohlrabi to deal with for two old folks! It is said to store extremely well in root cellars or refrigerators. And, it can be rough-chopped and used as animal feed. 80 days.

“Korist” (42 days) and Kolibri (43 days) are varieties I’ve grown in the past. Note that they are both earlier than the first two on my list that contain “Early” in their name. That’s what the wonders of plant breeding in creating hybrids can achieve. They are both F1 hybrids that did nicely, but I’d already placed my final veg order, and neither were offered from that company. I should have decided on my trial crop earlier! There are no doubt other varieties on offer, so check your favorite catalog or website and give kohlrabi a try this season. If I ever leave the house to shop, and find any other varieties, I’ll add them to the trials, and I’ll be reporting back on the trial results as the seasons progress.

If you haven’t tried kohlrabi, do give it a try. If you enjoy any other members of the cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, aspra-broc, brussel sprouts, rutabaga, etc.) odds are you will like it, too!

About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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21 Responses to Kohlrabi, this year’s “trial” crop

  1. jorjagrael says:

    Nice! I’ve never grown that. I’m thinking of trying artichokes again this year. Grew them once, years ago.

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    • carolee says:

      I grew artichokes a couple of times, but decided they were not worth the space or the effort since we aren’t huge fans. Rarely, I purchase a jar of marinated artichokes for one or two special recipes we have that call for them, but I can grow LOTS more edible food in the big space they take, and it’s pretty marginal here if we even get them to set. Usually it freezes about flowering time.

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  2. jennerjahn says:

    Carolee, loved your blog this morning. Brought back childhood memories of my brothers, with their jack knives digging the kohlrabi Out of the garden, slicing off those funny stems. And then eating that vegetable right in the garden. Chris crunchy and delicious. Tried to comment but I had lots of problems doing it Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  3. Hi Carolee. Enjoyed reading your post. I started growing kohlrabi a long time ago when I got interested in gardening ( a very long time ago!). I had never heard of it until I started browsing seed catalogues. It is delicious. Much nicer than turnip. I can’t remember what I grew last year but this year I will try one called Noriko. I grow it in the polytunnel to protect it from pests and I find it grows very well under cover. We can compare results later in the year. Bye from Freda (earthyhomemaker)

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  4. What a great post! This was super helpful, thank you!! I’ve always been curious about growing kohlrabi but haven’t taken the time to really learn about it. I received some kohlrabi seeds as my free seed packet from Baker Creek this year, so maybe I’ll try it out in the fall!

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    • carolee says:

      Sprinkle a pinch this spring if it’s still early in your area, just to give it a try and see how it does. I pretty much grow it all growing season, but put it in the shade of a trellis during the very hottest months here (August!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ok good to know! I’ll have to do that! I direct sow our beets and radishes so maybe I’ll make some room for an experimental kohlrabi section at the end of one of those beds 🙂. That area gets a good amount of afternoon shade for the hot months.

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  5. I’ve got a Kohlrabi in the fridge right now. Never came across one in the UK, but here in Belgium they are popular. I agree with your suggestions for eating it – in a salad it adds a nice crunch and astringency – but my favourite recipe is kohlrabi gratin – which I haven’t made in ages because my other half is dieting – but it’s wonderfully comforting on a cold winter’s day! Hope the trials prove interesting, I look forward to hearing how it goes.

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  6. I am a big fan of Kohlrabi and grow it myself most years, both green and purple varieties. I agree lovely in coleslaw and I find it transplants really well, which is what I do too.

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  7. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I haven’t tried kohlrabi but I need to put another seed order in (Parsnip seed was temporarilyn out of stock when I ordered and I MUST have parsnips!) so I will get some and give it a go. Your suggestion of putting in transplants and sowing direct at the same time for succession is also a good one which I will try.Thank you.

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    • carolee says:

      What’s your favorite, most reliable parsnip? Still looking for a better one…or maybe it’s just my growing, not the variety. I get good flavor, but they are short…like 4-5″ and that wide!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Going Batty in Wales says:

        I stick to the old fashioned ‘tender and true’ because that is the only variety Real Seeds stock! I have been getting very poor harvests but that is because my soil had become hungry. Last year I grew them in a bin filled with my home made compost and got some decent ones. This year I have emptied the bin and put lots of cow manure in it so am hoping for good results. They do need very deep soil I have discovered.

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  8. Beth says:

    I enjoyed reading about kohlrabi and your results with the different varieties! I’ve never eaten it, but I will be looking for it at the grocery store to try soon. I live in South Texas, so I know it isn’t grown locally!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Amy Rich says:

    I love kohlrabi. It’s one of my dad’s favorites, so I grew up with him growing it for us all to eat. I was sad that it didn’t seem to like my garden. Maybe I should try it again.

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  10. Peg says:

    I need to try kohlrabi, I’ve never had it but I love cabbage! Not going to try to grow it, though, because too hot and dry here.

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