Growing up in a small New England town, I never saw kohlrabi, but while volunteering on a kibbutz one year (breakfast and supper both featuring a cornucopia of super-fresh produce), I fell in love with the bulb. The flavor is mild with just a tiny bit of a kick. Not as spicy as a radish, but with the same wonderful crunch.
A member of the cabbage family and also known by the names turnip cabbage and German turnip, kohlrabi comes in both red and pale green color and, once the stems and leaves are removed, looks somewhat like an underwater vessel you might see in a Jules Verne novel.
I just knew it was a sign when I saw sets at the garden shop this spring. I had to try my hand at planting them. The challenge would be that my luck at growing vegetables is variable. Some plants produce bountifully – in my freezer I still have jalapeno and banana peppers from four years ago. Bell peppers, on the other hand, are stingy and kind of bitter. In fact, the grocery store varieties are better. Far better. When it comes to eggplant, the Ichiban variety is prolific for months, while the big fat Black Beauties grant me only two or three fruits at most.
So, hopeful but not delusional, I prepared the garden with the whole nine yards of stuff: organic fertilizer, compost, water, mulch. Just two months and a few prayers later, I returned from a week away from home to find that the kohlrabi was ready to harvest. Pretty fast by New England standards. Even better, the animals seem to be staying away, perhaps stymied by the obstacle course provided by so many stems and leaves surrounding the hard bulbs. (My tomatoes are being devoured by rabbits and chipmunks, necessitating better fencing.)
It was a good experiment but, in retrospect, since only one bulb comes from each plant, there may be better uses of the space in the garden. The farmer’s market is sure to have some, right?