(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Tuesday, July 3, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING KOHLRABI
Many people have never even heard of Kohlrabi, but I think it is one of my favorite garden vegetables. Kohlrabi is from the brassica family. It is a round bulb like a turnip but it grows just above the soil level and has leaves that grow out from the bulb in many different places, not just the top. There are two different colors, green and purple.
Although Kohlrabi is a bulb it is a heavy feeder. Preparation of the bed for Kohlrabi should begin in the fall with a heavy amendment of nitrogen. I like to use salmon and seaweed and seashell sand, and then cover the bed with black plastic for the winter to prevent the leeching of nutrients.
In the spring it wouldn’t hurt to also till in some herring roe on kelp. Just be sure that the roe has time to break down a little before it’s time to plant so you don’t burn your plants. Seeds can be planted directly out in prepared beds mid-April, but I recommend starting them indoors mid-March and then transplanting them outdoors mid-April.
In a raised bed make a dish-shaped depression and then dig a hole in the center of it for the transplant. Bury the transplant up to its first set of true leaves using 6-inch spacing between plants. The depression will function as a catch basin for water to prevent the plant from drying out.
Brassicas require steady moisture, so it’s not a bad idea to mulch around all the plants with seaweed. Just be sure the plants aren’t buried and have minimum contact with the seaweed. Mulching with seaweed really helps retain moisture, keeps the weeds down and also feeds the plants. If you have a wet, moldy garden without raised beds you may want to skip this step.
As with all brassicas, it is very important to cover Kohlrabi with floating row cover and to leave it on until July 15 or harvest time, whichever comes first. Row cover will protect the plants from frost and wind and rain damage, but more importantly it will keep out the root maggot fly – the mortal enemy of any plant in the brassica family.
To harvest Kohlrabi just pull up the bulb and use a sharp knife to cut off the tough root and peel away the skin and leaves. Around the root area you will find that the bulb is tough and the skin is thick, but as you work up to the top the bulb gets more tender and the skin gets thinner. At the very top you hardly have to peel away any skin at all.
I always eat my Kholrabi raw, but I read that it is also delicious cooked. It tastes a lot like the center of a broccoli stem. It’s less watery and more dense and sweet than a turnip. The leaves are also edible and can be used like kale.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241