Not for the first time
here we find a vegetable which is popular in some
parts of Europe but has found little favour in
Britain. This is perhaps surprising as kohl rabi
is a root-forming brassica which does much better
in hot and dry weather than the much more popular
turnip. The edible swollen part of kohl rabi is
not really a root at all – it is the stem
base (‘globe’) and so is able to succeed
in shallow soils where turnips and Swedes would
fail. It is low growing, reaching about 1ft (30cm)
in hight. It also matures quickly, progressing
from sowing to harvesting in a couple of months.
Textbooks try to describe the taste of the globe
but the phrases are not much use – ‘a
cross between turnip and cabbage’ for the
boiled vegetable, ‘nutty with a slight celery
taste’ for the grated raw globe. This vegetable
can be both tasty and tender, but only if you
grow it quickly and lift when the globes are undersized.
Expected germination time: 10 days
Approximate number per ounce: 8000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 20 globes
Life expectancy of stored seed: 4 years.
Approximate time between sowing and picking: 8-12
Ease of cultivation: Easy
· The ideal situation is a sunny spot on
light land. Dig in autumn – work in compost
if the soil is poor. Lime, if necessary, in winter.
· In spring apply Growmore fertilizer and
sprinkle Bromophos if cabbage root fly is known
to be a problem. Prepare the seed bed about a
week later, treading down and raking the surface.
Sow very thinly ½ in (1cm) deep in rows
12in (30cm) apart. Cover with soil. Sow white
and green varieties between March and June. For
a late autumn or winter crop sow a purple variety
in July or August.
Sowing time: Usually early April to the end of
July; can extend from late March to the end of
Lifting time: Mid July to November; can include
late June and early July as well as December.
Looking after the crop
· Thin the seedlings as soon as the first
true leaves appear. Continue thinning at intervals
until the plants are 6in (15cm) apart. Provide
protection against birds.
· Hoe regularly and feed occasionally if
growth is slow. Soak the ground during periods
· Pull the swollen stem bases (‘globes’)
when they are midway in size between a golf ball
and a tennis ball. Do not lift and store –
they deteriorate once out of the ground. Leave
the plants growing in the garden and pull as required
Green Vienna: Green-skinned, white-fleshed –
an early maturing variety which is chosen for
spring and summer sowing.
White Vienna: The outer skin is paler than Green
Vienna, but some books do not accept that there
is any difference between the varieties.
Purple Vienna: The globes are purple-skinned but
the flesh remains white. Choose this variety for
late sowing and winter harvest.
Rowel: A new F1 hybrid which claims to be definitely
superior to the old Viennas. The flesh is sweeter
and it does not become woody if allowed to grow
larger than a tennis ball.
Many of the brassica problems are occasionally
seen, but they are not likely to be serious. The
crop matures quickly and so it is not affected
by diseases which develop slowly or pests which
are at their peak when kohl rabi is absent from
the garden. Birds and aphids can be troublesome.
Also see Brassicas.