Sunday, December 2, 2007

While You Are Planning...

While you are planning next year’s garden, why not allot some space for the forgotten cole crop, Kohlrabi? Its name means ‘cabbage turnip.’ Its easy to grow and pretty much disease and pest-free.
Incidentally, if you leave them in your garden after harvesting what you want to use, and are in a rural setting the deer will provide you with delightful entertainment as they much on the tops.

Kohlrabi purchased in the supermarket is usually tough, fibrous and bitter. You are better off growing your own. It isn’t hard. There are a variety of choices. I prefer Early White Vienna, but there are others equally as good. Most varieties mature in 55 days, so you can plan accordingly.

A soil that is rich in organic matter, retains moisture, yet drains readily, such as is preferred by other cole crops, is ideal for Kohlrabi. If you have sand and manure-enriched compost, incorporate as much as you can spare into the soil for your kohlrabi for best results.

To plant directly into the soil (You can start them indoors early) plant them in two foot blocks, spacing plants six inches apart each way, or sow two seeds per spacing and thin to the strongest seedlings when they’re about 2 inches tall.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, mulching is key to producing prize-winning Kohlrabi. Start when the plants are three inches tall with a layer of clean straw or shredded leaves. Throughout the growing season you should keep the soil consistently moist, but not mucky. All you do is sit back and wait to harvest them.

What do you do with these jewels of the cole family? Start harvesting them when they are about two inches in diameter, somewhere between golf ball or billiard ball size. This is when the flavor and texture will be at its peak.

Pull the bulbs or cut them at the root just below ground level. Strip off the leaves from those stems to use as collard greens.

Now for the Kohlrabi bulb: you can grate it for slaws, sliver it for salads, peel and slice it into coins for cheese or onion dips, my favorite is to peel and eat it raw like an apple. You can also cook them as a creamed or augratin dish. Add them to soups and stews. If you like Chinese dishes stir fry them to add to those. Steamed (either sliced or cubed) served with herbed butter or combine with carrots and peas for a beautiful and delicious side dish.

To freeze, peel and dice, blanch for 90 seconds cool in ice water and package for freezing.
The bulbs will store for several weeks in the refrigerator or root cellar.

Nutritional facts: Kohlrabi has about twice the vitamin C content of orange juice and is an excellent source of vitamin A, several B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and other minerals.

German and Hungarian cookbooks usually have some extravagant Kohlrabi recipes.

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