Kohlrabi is a highly prized plant in home gardens and hales from Germany where the name means turnip cabbage. In fact, you can think of Kohlrabi as odd cabbages with outstandingly delicious stems. It is the stem that swells, like the head of cabbage – only smaller, that provides the most food.
These little cabbage-like plants are rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber – both of which are excellent for improved health. In this Grow-Your-Own veggie profile, we take a deeper look at how to grow Kohlrabi and its wonderful benefits.
What is Kohlrabi?
Scientifically, Brassica oleracea – is the result of domesticating wild cabbage – all cabbages and relatives are in the mustard family. This includes broccoli, cauliflower, leafy herbs such as arugula, and of course, mustards.
Brassicas are a highly beneficial group of vegetables and Kohlrabi is perhaps the oddest looking of them all. In short, Kohlrabi is a variation of a cabbage with a rounded and swollen stem that is edible and has a cabbage-like flavor.
Nutrition in Kohlrabi
The following nutritional information is based on a 3.5 ounce serving of raw Kohlrabi.
Kohlrabi is rich in vitamins including:
Trace amounts of Vitamin A – which is actually a difficult vitamin to obtain in quantities that are recommended for daily consumption values. This mean, every little bit you take in helps.
B Vitamins – Kohlrabi is rich in B vitamins and contains Thiamine (B1,) Riboflavin (B2.) Niacin (B3,) Pantothenic acid (B5,) B6, Folate (B9,) and Vitamin B12.
This is a plant that is also a great source of vitamin B6 and offers .15 mg per each 3.5-ounce serving -raw. B1, B2, and B3 are found in 4-percent, 2-percent, and 3-percent – respectfully. Folate range to 4-percent of the RDA, and B12- is found in trace amounts.
The vitamin that is most prevalent in Kohlrabi is vitamin C. You can consume 75 percent of your RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of vitamin C in just 3.5 ounces of raw kohlrabi.
Vitamin E occurs at about 3 Percent of your RDA and Vitamin K is found in trace levels.
Kohlrabi is rich in minerals too and there are plenty. They include:
- Calcium at 2 Percent of the RDA
- Iron at 3 percent of the RDA
- Magnesium at 5 percent of the RDA
- Manganese, Phosphorus, and Potassium are all at 7 percent of the RDA
- Selenium and Sodium at 1 percent of your RDA>
The overall health profile for Kohlrabi is very good. With 3.6 grams of dietary fiber, foods like kohlrabi help improve colon and intestinal health and there is plenty of evidence that foods that are rich in fiber help to build up healthy levels of prebiotics and probiotics.
Further, there are a few studies out now that point to the potential of both prebiotics and probiotics. In addition, both probiotics and prebiotics are our body’s initial deterrent to toxin intake and as aids that help to prevent or correct inflammation.
There is even 1 gram of protein in Kohlrabi – Kohlrabi is not a complete protein, in that it is missing just one of the nine essential amino acids – Methionine. When kohlrabi is paired with beans or lean meats, or even Brazil nuts, you have all of the ingredients to make complete proteins.
Why Grow Kohlrabi?
The simple answer is that it is a healthy source of many of the ingredients that our body needs to function. One of the biggest things that preppers can do to improve their odds of survival is to focus on their own health.
- Personal health is a critical factor in how well we tolerate and survive challenging and dangerous situations. Adding foods to your diet that offer your body the best ingredients to build or repair cells, make important chemicals and hormones is critical and it is often overlooked by the masses. Kohlrabi is one of those foods that makes a difference in our health levels.
- Kohlrabi is also a cold-loving plant. It will grow in the winter when planted in mild climates or when protected from freezing weather. When the plants are healthy, they will tolerate light frosts and even snow. This means that for the prepping community, kohlrabi is a food source in your garden when many other plants are not available. It is also a great source for fresh homegrown foods in fall and winter.
- It is easy to grow. If you want to add fresh veggies to your menu but are concerned about the difficulty of growing some foods, then Kohlrabi is a great choice. It is fairly easy to grow, and it comes in several varieties.
- The leaves and stems are eatable. Some varieties of kohlrabi are perfect for what I call “snipping gardens”. These are gardens where you snip a few leaves here and there and end up with a complete meal without destroying the plant. Most people enjoy the round-spherical stems but make no mistake, the leaves are also very tasty.
How to Grow Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi is a cool growing crop. If it gets too much heat, it bolts and starts to seed. I live in a mix of zone 7 and 8 and find that the best time of year for planting brassicas here is late summer – if planting from seed.
At that time of year, the soil is warm enough that the seeds are easy to germinate, and the young plants tolerate the warmer weather and cooler nights. My goal is always that the plants be mature enough to survive the cool winter here. The adult plants might grow somewhat during the winter, but mostly they stop growing until spring. This has more to do with the lack of light than the temperatures.
Growing from Seed:
Seed germination is at its highest when you pay close attention to planting depth -1/4 inch is ideal. Generally, I start most of my seeds in a flat rather than in the ground. This is because I can grow more crops if I overlap the germination and early growth of the next crop while the current crop is nearing harvest.
The time frame is 4-6 weeks and that is a lot of time to save when gardening. So, while the seeds are growing over those 4-6 weeks, the crop that is in the ground is finishing. This method allows me to better manage the seedlings too. They transplant at about week three into six-packs or 2-inch pots. Then the seedlings are planted in the garden after hardening off when the garden is ready for them.
Most brassica’s including Kohlrabi prefer dense soil that holds water, but also offers plenty of organic material without being unstable. Your goal is nicely compact soil that supports the plants’ roots without restricting them. A good rule of thumb is to plant kohlrabi in places where carrots would not do well. Carrots love a loose and sandy soil.
Kohlrabi is an ideal plant for Square-Foot-Gardening as the adult plants require about a 1-square foot of space to thrive. Plant your seedlings about 1-foot apart.
The Days-to-Harvest vary by variety, but in general about 60-90 days. The ideal time to harvest is when the spherical bulbs on the stem approach 2 ½ – 3-inches in diameter. Like cabbage, cuts from kohlrabi do well in the fridge for a week or two.
The leaves are eatable and serve as a replacement for kale. You can dehydrate the leaves and use them as you would a potato chip as they are ideal for menus and snacks.
Preserving Your Harvest
Kohlrabi is amazing when fresh, but you might not be able to consume the entire harvest before it spoils – even with the long fridge lifespan. Not to worry, you have options for preserving your harvest.
Kohlrabi does not hold up well to pressure canning, but it is amazing pickled. You can also blanch and freeze it. In fact, this is one of those veggies that is much better preserved by freezing than by canning.
If you love pickled foods, then try one of the many pickled kohlrabi recipes available. There is a wide range of styles for picking kohlrabi and you can combine it with other foods such as green beans.
For additional information, take a look at our article on preserving root vegetables.
Why Grow Kohlrabi?
The short answer is that this is a high vitamin and mineral vegetable. Other reason includes the variety of uses for it and the fact that it loves cooler weather. The ease of growing it is yet another reason to add Kohlrabi to your gardening list.
One of the goals around my place is to have food available all year long. This means that in the event of a food shortage or if a disruption to food delivery and availability, that the burden of those events is reduced by the number of foods that are available in the garden.
Kohlrabi and other brassicas fill a slot during fall and winter so that we have plenty of fresh food available when many gardens are not producing anything. This is great, but I live in an area where the winters are mild. You can adapt your cold frame or greenhouse to grow cool loving plants during the harshest of winters.
All of these reasons add up to a positive outcome and help to answer the question about why you should grow kohlrabi.
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