Among the various members of the large cabbage family, the turnip cabbage, or Kohlrabi, is a vegetable greatly appreciated by agriculture enthusiasts and is ideal for cultivation in home gardens. It lends itself to various uses in the kitchen, from raw consumption as is to the preparation of more elaborate recipes. It’s a hardy cultivar, typical of the autumn period, which joins the cultivation of other cruciferous vegetables: savoy cabbage, cabbage, cauliflower, black kale, broccoli.
So, let’s learn about the botanical characteristics of this unique-shaped vegetable. We’ll also explore organic cultivation techniques, its nutritional properties, and how we can use it in the kitchen.
Botanical characteristics of kohlrabi
Turnip cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. gongyloides) is a cruciferous vegetable that differs greatly from other cabbages. Its main characteristic is the swelling that forms at the base of the stems, just above the roots. This broad and round formation (also known as a “head”) is about the size of an apple and is quite similar, in terms of shape and size, to a turnip. This turnip-like head is improperly considered the plant’s root. The actual root, however, is branched in the soil and is connected to the head by a relatively short stem. The leaves are attached to the head. They are pale green and lobed at the base. When they fall, they leave a distinctive and noticeable scar on the turnip. The basal leaves are rather narrow, with a central vein and swollen petioles. Both the head and the leaves are edible and, as we’ll see, quite tasty.
Varieties and Colors of turnip cabbage
Different varieties of turnip cabbage can be distinguished by two factors: the speed of growth and the color of the head. There are early varieties of this cruciferous vegetable that are harvested in autumn and have a more delicate flavor. There are also late varieties that have a harder head texture but can better withstand frost and have a longer post-harvest shelf life.
Its color can range from white to green or violet. A great idea for home cultivation is to grow different varieties with various colors together, combining both early and late cycles. This way, you’ll have a staggered harvest and can determine which varieties best suit your taste. The most well-known varieties are Vienna White and Vienna Purple.
Climate, Sowing, and Transplanting Period of kohlrabi
Turnip cabbage is a very hardy cultivar that can be grown in any climatic zone of our country. As mentioned earlier, late varieties can withstand frost. You can purchase seedlings from a nursery or start seeds in a polystyrene nursery tray. Keep in mind that it takes about 40-50 days from sowing to transplanting. The best period for cultivation is autumn. Compared to other cruciferous vegetables, kohlrabi requires less space. You can plant seedlings at a distance of 20 cm between each plant and 40 cm between rows.
Soil, Fertilization, and Irrigation
The ideal soil for cultivating turnip cabbage is sandy soil with a good supply of organic matter. For pre-transplant fertilization, you can use either the result of home compost, pelletized manure, or worm castings. You can find these two types of organic fertilizer online, in this specialist shop and in this other one. Regarding irrigation, being an autumnal cultivar, its water needs are limited. However, it suffers in dry soils, so having a drip irrigation system on hand to use when needed, especially during dry periods, is beneficial.
Mulching or Weeding
To promote healthy and vigorous growth, turnip cabbage needs to be kept free from weeds. In this regard, using natural mulch with straw is advisable, as it not only prevents weed growth but also reduces water requirements. If straw mulching (or other organic materials) isn’t possible, occasional hand weeding is necessary.
Turnip cabbage should be harvested when the heads have sufficiently enlarged but before they become tough and woody. As the cold weather arrives, the quality improves, and it develops a tasty and aromatic flavor.
Biological Pest Defense
The most concerning pest for turnip cabbage is the cabbage moth, which can damage the leaves and hinder growth, particularly in young plants. The cabbage moth can be controlled using a maceration of tomato leaves and female flowers, a natural remedy that needs to be prepared in advance. If you cannot make your own macerate, you can intervene with bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki which you can buy freely in specialized shops.
Nutritional Properties of Turnip Cabbage
Turnip cabbage is a vegetable with excellent. It’s rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin C, A, and to a lesser extent, B group vitamins. It also contains beta-carotene and folic acid. As previously mentioned, the leaves are edible and also contain a good amount of minerals.
Culinary Uses of Turnip Cabbage
In the kitchen, turnip cabbage can be consumed both raw and cooked. In either case, it should be peeled delicately before use. The head can be sautéed in a pan or steamed.
Turnip Cabbage Salad
Let’s look at a recipe for a tasty kohlrabi salad.
- One head of turnip cabbage
- Mayonnaise, lemon
After peeling the head, blanch the turnip cabbage in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Let it cool and then cut it into Julienne strips. Cut the carrots and apples into the same shape. Add the walnuts, mayonnaise, and lemon, then mix everything together.
Turnip Cabbage Carpaccio
For a simple raw consumption recipe, we have the turnip cabbage carpaccio.
- One head of turnip cabbage
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Black pepper (or sweet paprika)
- Balsamic vinegar
Peel the turnip cabbage and slice it into very thin slices. Arrange the slices on a plate and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle olive oil over the slices and add drops of balsamic vinegar.
- Mdpi, Agronomy: “Yield and Nutrient Concentrations of Kohlrabi Bulbs and Leaves as Affected by Spring Transplanting Dates”.
- Nih, Preventive Nutrition and Food Science: “Anti-Diabetic and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Green and Red Kohlrabi Cultivars (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes)”.