Growing kohlrabi is relatively simple. It can be direct-seeded (planting seeds directly in the soil where it will mature) but it is best to start seeds in trays six to eight weeks prior to planting. Some nurseries carry transplants for those less inclined to start from seed. Plant seeds 1⁄4 inch deep, and about five inches apart in late summer/early fall, or early spring. Seeds sprout within 15 days and the plant is ready to pick in 45 to 60 days. For Los Angeles gardeners, your most tender crop will come from a fall planting.
Most kohlrabi is harvested before the bulbs have a chance to become woody, around two inches in diameter. Some hybrid cultivars, however, have been bred to stay tender at high temperatures or as they grow larger.
If you plan to save seeds from your alien vegetable, choose heirloom or open-pollinated varieties such as Purple or White Vienna, Azure Star or Dyna (both purple). If you want to go for broke, try the enormous Superschmelz or Gigant Winter for plants that grow to eight to 10 inches in diameter. For hybrid options there are many to choose from: Kolibri, Kongo, Korist, Kossak, Korridor (hmmm … there’s a theme here), Eder and Winner.
Now on to the fun part: eating. As mentioned earlier, kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked, but in either situation it must be peeled first. The outer layer is tough and fibrous, so take the extra time to peel this gem. For raw dishes, cut thin slices and drizzle with olive oil and salt, or toss into salads for extra crunch. The bulb can be grated and paired with the aforementioned jicama and some chopped nuts and herbs, topped with a light vinaigrette.
When cooked, kohlrabi becomes incredibly versatile. Steam one-inch cubes in a covered pot with a 1⁄4 inch of water for about eight minutes, then remove the lid to evaporate excess liquid. Next add some olive oil and sauté until golden brown. You’ll swear you’re eating potatoes. Take shredded kohlrabi and mix it with egg and a little flour for great fritters. Purée cooked kohlrabi into soups for a creamy change of pace.
Oh, and here’s a bonus: Kohlrabi leaves are edible too. Use them the same way you would use kale, or partner them together. No matter how you use kohlrabi, it’s sure to enliven your winter dishes and make your next meal outta this world.