Bulletproof! That’s how gardeners who grow kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. coulorapa) describe this versatile, under-rated vegetable. Along with radishes, it is the easiest of the brassicas to grow. It’s a quick crop and requires no special treatment, says Sean Freeman of Living Seeds. Is it a root, a fruit or a UFO? Its name, of German origin, means ‘cabbage turnip’. It looks like a root crop, but in fact the edible portion is the swollen, fleshy stem that develops just above the ground. The flavour is milder and sweeter than cabbage, and is often described as being closer in taste to sweet potato.


• It’s a brassica so likes sun and fertile soil. Add compost and well-rotted manure. An organic fertiliser like Vita-Veg (6:3:4) can also be added.

• Sow seed directly into the ground or into seed trays and keep the soil moist during germination.

• Transplant the seedlings when they can be handled, or if directly sown, thin them out to a final spacing of 10-12 cm between plants. Rows should be 30 cm apart.

• Water the seedlings at least once a week, or more depending on the temperature. Plants that are drought stressed will not produce tender ‘bulbs’.

• Don’t worry if the plants tend to fall over as they approach maturity.

Good to know

Kohlrabi is more tolerant of warm weather than the turnip. In very cold areas kohlrabi that has reached maturity by May can be left in the ground and harvested as necessary, as it does not continue growing in June and July.


Kohlrabi should be ready to harvest within two months. Harvest when the ‘bulb’ is between the size of a golf and a tennis ball (about 5-7 cm in diameter). The bigger it gets the more fibrous it becomes.


Young and small ‘bulbs’ are delicious roasted. They can also be peeled, boiled and mashed like potatoes, or sliced into slivers and added to stir-fries. They make an
unusual potjie ingredient and can also be added to soup. You can also shred kohlrabi and eat it raw (it’s mildly spicy, like radishes) with a vinaigrette dressing, mix it with carrots to make a slaw, or add it to salads

The Gardener