Friday, April 10, 2015

Kohlrabi: a versatile cole crop

The weird stem enlargement is about the size of an apple...
Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes) is one of the many cole crops (cabbage, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and more), which have all been bred from just one plant species. Kohl is the German word for cabbage—hence they are the "cole crops" and why cabbage salad is called cole slaw. The word kohlrabi means cabbage apple in German, which makes a lot of sense because of the size of its stem enlargement and its sweet taste and crispy texture.

Because kohlrabi is easy-to-grow and has few pests in an organic garden, helps to explain its recently gained popularity with farmers markets and local food groups. It has been grown as a crop in Europe for centuries. Grown for its weird Sputnik-shaped enlarged stem-bulb with leaves sticking out at odd angles. You can consume both the enlarged stem and its leaves.


Be sure to leave enough room when you plant the kohlrabi
so they can expand to their full size. 

Planting kohlrabi


Plant seeds directly in the garden or start in flats in the fall and periodically throughout the winter until mid-February in Florida. Plant seeds or plants at 6 to 8 inches apart so they have enough room to develop. If too many seeds come up together, transplant them early so they get a good start. Amend soil well with compost and composted manure for the best growth.

Planting locations should be in full sun or slight shade with more shade for the later plantings. Mulch around stems with pine needles to keep weeds at bay and to hold in moisture. Irrigate regularly, but deeply. 

Cut the stem-bulb when it's two to three inches in diameter. Larger bulbs become tough and woody and definitely harvest before hot weather arrives. There may be some regrowth after harvesting, but usually only the leaves.
Sliced about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thin, pan-fried in olive oil, and
garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.


Preparation

There are many ways to prepare kohlrabi:
1) cook it like a turnip and all its ways (roasted, mashed, or in a soup), especially if it's 5 inches in diameter or larger.
2) grate the enlarged stem and use them in salads or instead of zucchini in breads. 

3) cut the stem into sticks and use them as dipping vegetables.
4) use the leaves as you'd use any of the leafy cole crops including veggie chips, added raw to salads or cole slaw, chopped in soups, or mixed in with a mess of cooked greens.


All the cole crops are the same species: Brassica oleracea.


Aren't cole crops amazing?
Consider planting this interesting cole vegetable in your cool-weather edible garden next year.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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