Kohlrabi: A Swell Brassica

One of the oddest vegetables in my garden is the kohlrabi. Its stem swells into a bulb that sits right on the ground in the manner of an onion, and its broad green leaves seem to sprout randomly from the bulb.

It’s member of the Brassica genus, as it seems all my best veggies are. Knowing that, compare it to Brussels sprouts, with their tiny cabbages popping out from under the edges of leaf nodes, and you can see a family resemblance. It’s the overgrown cousin, mutated a bit from inbreeding with other members of the cabbage clan back on the old home place in the holler.

kohlrabi

Sometimes called “stem turnip,” a nod to another surprising Brassica, kohlrabi grows like others of its clan, faring best in cool weather. It’s a short-season crop, and you

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can get young bulbs of some varieties in less than two months.

The one above was a bit forgotten in my garden, and grew to softball size before I yanked it out. Still, the greens were tender enough (yes, you can eat them as well as the bulb) and the crisp, purple-tinged bulb served as the centerpiece of a generous stir-fry meal.

Younger, tender bulbs can be shaved for ‘rabi-slaw, one of my favorite ways to eat it, with a honey-poppyseed dressing. Sliced and sauteed is also fine. Basically, use it in any way that you’d use a cabbage.

This spring I bought a few

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starts at a nursery of this purple-bulbed variety, and when I planted them I also sowed seeds of a green variety. You also can find white kohlrabi. That dual planting allowed me a longer harvest, a technique I often recommend.

Now that we’re eating the spring crop, it’s time to plant another batch for late fall use. As with many Brassicas (kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage, turnips), mutliple sowings throughout the year can yield a lot of excellent food in a Maritime Northwest garden.

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