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Kohlrabi is becoming a popular veg and it's tasty either cooked or raw

As part of Michael Kelly’s 52 Veg – A Year of Growing, Cooking and Eating your own Food series – this week, we talk kohlrabi .

Michael Kelly Grower

KOHLRABI IS GAINING in popularity and little wonder – it’s quick-growing, easy to grow and tastes great (like a very mild turnip), cooked or raw.

If you have a polytunnel or greenhouse you can sow it pretty much all year around for a continuous supply. If growing outside, you can enjoy it from around May to October. It’s a brassica so include it in your crop rotation.

Available as green, white or purple varieties, kohl rabi stems grow above the ground. They are beautiful looking, if rather strange looking plants.

Watch the video tutorial: www.giyinternational.org/videos/detail/kohlrabi

Sowing

Sow a small numbers of seeds every month from April to July for a continuous supply. Don’t be tempted to sow too early as it will bolt if hit by cold weather. The green varieties mature more quickly so sow these first. If you have a polytunnel or greenhouse to plant them out in, you can start sowing much earlier (January on) and keep sowing until right up to October.

Your best option is to sow a couple of seeds per module in a module tray using fine seed compost. Sow 2cm deep (about a fingernail deep). Leave the tray inside or in a greenhouse. The kohlrabi should germinate quite quickly (within a week). Remove the weaker seedling.

kohlrabi Source: Karen Massier

Growing

The seedlings will be ready to transplant about 4-6 weeks later. Leave 25-30cm between plants and 30cm between rows. Kohlrabi like free-draining fertile soil, but they are far less demanding than other brassicas.

It’s important when planting the seedling out, to plant it level with the ground (do not plant too deep as you might with other seedlings). This is because the lower stem is what will swell out to produce the delicious food and if you bury this, it might rot. Water regularly throughout the season as they go woody in dry weather. You do not need to earth up kohlrabi as you would with some brassicas.

Harvesting

Depending on the variety kohlrabi take between six and sixteen weeks to mature. Lift when they are tennis-ball size. Later sowings can be left in the soil over autumn and early winter, but lift before frosts.

Recommended Varieties

Azur Star – early blue variety.

Superschmelz – tender even if allowed to grow large.

Problems

Generally easy to grow, but it’s a brassica, so clubroot and the cabbage white butterfly can be an issue. Check the leaves for caterpillars and remove.

GIY Tips

  • Kohlrabi is delicious in coleslaws
  • Kohlrabi do not store well so harvest as required.

shutterstock_361083035 Source: Shutterstock/OksanaBgn

Recipe of the Week – Smothered Leeks and Kohlrabi

I love this Sophie Grigson recipe that cooks the vegetables with a little fat and the least possible amount of water, in a covered pan (I guess that’s the smothering bit) until very, very tender. Kohlrabi holds together well, adding its own natural sweetness. Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 3 leeks, trimmed and cut into 2cm/¾in lengths
  • 2 kohlrabi (around 650g/1lb 7oz), trimmed, peeled and cut into 2cm/¾in cubes
  •  3 large carrots (around 550g/1¼lb), peeled and cut into 2cm/¾in pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • water, to cover
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 40g/1½oz butter

Directions:

Place the leeks, kohlrabi, carrots and garlic into a wide shallow pan which will take them in a single layer. Tuck the herbs down among them. Pour in enough water to come about 1.5cm/½ inch up the sides of the pan.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and dot with butter.

Bring up to the boil, then reduce the heat to the absolute minimum. Cover the pan with a lid or foil and leave to cook very gently for about an hour, stirring occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t catch. If necessary add an extra splash of water, or if it ends up too watery, uncover and boil the water off.

Either way, you are aiming to end up with meltingly tender vegetables, perhaps slightly patched with brown towards the end of cooking, with little more than a few tablespoonfuls of syrupy liquid left in the pan. Serve warm.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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