A member of the cabbage family, kohlrabi is a cool season vegetable that has little tolerance for freezing temperatures. The plant is generally grown for the bulbs, but the young greens are also flavorful. However, growing kohlrabi greens for harvest will reduce the size of the bulb. Both the bulb and the greens are nutrient rich, filled with fiber and high in both Vitamins A and C.
Are Kohlrabi Leaves Edible?
The avid home gourmet may well ask, “Are kohlrabi leaves edible?” The answer is a resounding yes. Although the plant is generally grown for the thick bulb, you can also take the smaller leaves that form when the plant is young. These are used much like spinach or collard greens.
Kohlrabi greens are thick and taste best when cooked or steamed, but they are also eaten chopped in salads. Harvesting kohlrabi leaves in early spring is the best time to get flavorful, tender greens.
Growing Kohlrabi Greens
Plant seeds in well-prepared soil with plenty of organic amendment one to two weeks before the last frost in spring. Sow under a light, ¼ inch (6 mm.) dusting of soil, then thin the plants to 6 inches (15 cm.) apart after seedlings appear.
Weed the area frequently and keep the soil moderately moist but not soggy. Begin harvesting leaves when the bulb is small and just beginning to form.
Watch for cabbageworms and other invasive pests that will chew up the leaves. Combat with organic and safe pesticides or the old “pick and crush” method.
Harvesting Kohlrabi Leaves
Take no more than one-third of the foliage when you harvest kohlrabi greens. If you plan to harvest the bulbs, leave enough foliage to provide solar energy for the formation of the vegetable.
Cut the leaves off rather than pulling to prevent injury to the bulb. Wash greens well before eating.
For a consistent harvest of the greens, practice successive planting in spring by sowing every week during the cool, rainy season. This will allow you to harvest the leaves from a constant source of plants.
Cooking Kohlrabi Leaves
Kohlrabi greens are used much like any other vegetable green. The smallest leaves are tender enough to put in salads or on sandwiches, but the majority of the leaves will be thick and tough without cooking. There are many recipes for cooking kohlrabi leaves.
Most greens are traditionally cooked down in a stock or flavorful broth. You can do a vegetarian version or add smoked ham hock, bacon, or other rich amendment. Cut out thick ribs and wash the leaves well. Chop them and add to a simmering liquid.
Turn heat to medium low and let the greens wilt. The less time the leaves cook, the more nutrients will still be contained in the vegetable. You may also add the leaves to a vegetable gratin or stew.