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Connecticut Garden Journal: The Surprisingly Edible Kohlrabi

May 18, 2017

What do you do with a vegetable that looks like a spaceship? Kohlrabi isn't the prettiest veggie on the block, but it sure is easy to grow and surprisingly tasty and versatile in the kitchen.

If you've been to Germany, Russia, or Eastern Europe you know kohlrabi. It's popular in that part of the world for making "kohl" slaw, salads, soups, and stews. The flavor is like a mild turnip or cabbage. The flesh is bright white, and it is juicy and crunchy when eaten raw with dips.

Are you intrigued yet? Growing kohlrabi is pretty simple. It's in the cabbage family so it likes cool weather. Buy transplants or sow seeds directly in the ground now to mature in a few months.

The plant produces a handball-sized swelling on the stem at the soil line with leaves sticking out of the stem. It's weird looking, but the ball is the part you eat. Most kohlrabi varieties have green skin and white flesh. However, Kohlabri has attractive purple colored skin.

Kohlrabi is best eaten when less than three inches in diameter, but the variety Superschmelz is an exception. It can grow to the size of a cabbage and not be woody. 

Grow kohlrabi in full sun on raised beds, amended with compost. Watch for aphids and cabbage worms and control them with organic sprays of soapy water and Bacillus thuriengensis.

Once the swelling forms you can harvest the whole plant to eat. Harvesting on the young side is best for the most tender flesh. So try this Eastern European beauty and might start singing its praises.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about making perfect flower containers. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.