"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cabbage & Kohlrabi

As the chilly fall weather causes the ground to thaw and freeze ever more deeply I finally decided it was time to liberate our cabbage from the trench they have been hiding in for the past several weeks. The root cellar is now complete as the cabbage join the rest of our edibles in a state of almost suspended animation awaiting their turn at the table.

With the weather, a couple weeks back, dropping into the high teens for a few days and the root cellar still a tad too warm at that time (45-50°) I dug a trench and laid out our cabbage between layers of straw and covered with a few spare pieces of plywood with dirt on top. This thirty minute procedure allowed me a grace period of almost three weeks. Theoretically, cabbage can be stored this way for many months if your trench is dug deeply and the insulation (straw, leaves, soil) is thick enough. Unfortunately, unless I want to tunnel into 100" of snow (packed), which is what we received this past winter, entrenching my cabbage is not a viable solution for us. We always struggle with the storage of our cabbage and I really want to keep them as a reliable food source for as long as possible this year since we did have quite a few, so I am hoping that bringing them into the cellar after it has cooled will make a difference.

Blink your eyes and summer's over, it seems as though we just finished planting our little brassica seedlings and now they have come full term. We pulled the majority our kohlrabi a couple weeks back and have them stored away. I grew three varieties this year and one called Gigante did surprisingly well for us, as large as some of them got they still remained tender and crisp under their bumpy skins. Over the years kohlrabi has become a staple in our diet, usually grated raw over our salads. If you have never grown them before I highly recommend you try as they will thrive anywhere cabbage and broccoli can be grown. If they receive plenty of water and are grown in a loose composted soil even our large ones do not seem to get woody but remain tender and sweet.

June kohlrabi, all leaves and no body

Kohlrabi, trimmed and ready to be tucked away into the root cellar

Most of our storage cabbage were red varieties as they always seem to keep the best for us. We are in the process of turning the green ones, mostly Late Flat Dutch and Danish Ballhead, into sauerkraut. This year we canned some of our kraut for the first time as a test to see how we liked it "cooked" but the rest will be eaten in a more raw state throughout the winter.

The kraut on the left just came out of the canner and the fresh stuff is about to be cut up for a more natural, crisp kraut.

Some of the smaller cabbage are still in the field and actually weathered the cold spell quite well. Every day or so I pick a couple that are still in good shape. The Ruby Ball seems to be especially tolerant and has so far managed to survive the cold and even a bit of snow this year. The smaller kohlrabi that were left behind were pretty much ruined (frozen solid) but still able to provide us and our chickens with very fine greens once they had thawed.

Our first snow day, (six hours of falling slush) hit about a week ago, this is one of many little cabbage left out in the weather. Still perfectly edible.


randi said...

Hey Mike, love the trench idea for the cabbage..now all I need is enough cabbage to entrench for the few weeks you mentioned. I grew some kohlrabi for the first time this year and just the other day stir fried some into a veggie mix that wasn't half bad but what I'd like to know is your timetable for seeding it. I started it in the Spring with everything else but I'm getting the feeling this isn't the thing to do. Also I feel the fertility of the soil where it was put and essentially forgotten was not up to snuff. Any further thoughts?

Heiko said...

We may not have a root cellar, but at least in our mild climate many plants, including brassica survive the winter well. In fact they do better over the winter as they are not bothered by pests and don't bolt to seed to quickly.

Anonymous said...

I love the trench idea -a great solution for when Indian summer hits and it gets too warm. This also is a great time to make kraut -good idea all around. We haven't got any snow yet but it will be here shortly I'm sure.

Stefaneener said...


I have a few kohrabit this year, but we're not as dependent on stored food, given the multiseasonal nature of our gardening. Fall gardening is just easier, somehow, despite the vigorous weeds.

Good to see you have it all covered, as it were!

el said...

Glad to see you kept the roots on those cabbage. That seems to be the key, just like it is with winter squash: they just like a bit left on them to cure or do their thing. Mine just sit in the root cellar with the potatoes until I need them; seem to do fine through the winter. And cabbage and potatoes are naturally friends in cooking too.

Whatalottakohlrabi though! Yum.

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Mike tell us how you eat Kohlrabi. Have you ever tried using a salt brine to make sauerkraut. It stores very well. We just love it and it's packed with Vit C since it hasn't been heated.

Silke said...

Oh, that post brings back memories, as most of your posts do for me. We ate lots of kohlrabi growing up - my mom used to julienne it and make a cream sauce to go with it. Simple and delicious!!

And...we had good family friends from Hungary (don't even get me started about the amazing meals of goulash and mashed potatoes, followed by homemade poppy seed and apple strudels we had at their house), who always helped my mother prepare a huge vat of fresh sauerkraut which we kept in our basement!

Your cabbages look fantastic!! :) Silke

WeekendFarmer said...

wow! I have failed to grow a single cabbage in the last 4 years of gardening. I dont know why it is so hard : )

Heat some mustard/olive oil and drop in 1-2 dried red chilli. Do julinne cut of the cabbages and drop it in. Cover and let it "steam" in the heat. Stir to avoid burning. One of my favourite dish from Bangladesh.

Mr. H. said...


Most people prefer a baseball sized kohlrabi. That is easy to achieve in the spring but if you wait until August to plant and it happens to be hot you might just end up with a bunch of leaves come fall.

We start some of ours in early spring and others in late June. They all get pretty darn big but, in our garden anyway, stay crisp and tender if kept watered well.

Your best bet would be to try the Gigante as they are known to stay tender even when large.

Some of our largest ones will have a good half inch of woody skin and be tender inside. Some of these ones can be stored a good nine months. We are always willing to give up a bit of flavor for storage length.

Give them good, but not too good of soil to grow in. Too much nitrogen and they will be all leaves. And remember, they are made up of mostly water so they need lots of water to remain palatable.

If you can spare the time you might try planting some in each of the summer months to see how they might do best in your local.

Mr. H. said...


I enjoy the challenges of a short growing season but sure would like to try growing crops in a milder climate someday.

Do you have a spare room I could stay in for a season...I don't eat too much and am a great weed puller and hole digger.:)

Mr. H. said...


Our snow came and left on the same day. We often have a bit of snow and really cold weather in October that can be followed by a mild November...one never knows. The weather is very tricky at times. Last year we had a really mild November.

Mr. H. said...


It was pretty warm out today, almost 55°in the sun. But, according to the weather forcast we are in for a cold rainy windstorm tommorrow...so yeah, brr.:) I hate windy days.

Mr. H. said...


I am keeping my cabbage just as you suggested and hopefully will be eating them well into the winter.

We seem to grow more kohlrabi every year as they make up for our failures in cabbage. Once shredded they are fairly similar, I must try cooking them though. We have been growing kohrabi for over 5 years now and never once cooked them, only eaten them raw...what's up with that? Stir fry for sure this year.

Mr. H. said...


We seem to prefer our kohlrabi shredded raw over salads or in slaw. They are supposed to be great baked, steamed, sauted, or boiled but for whatever reason we have never tried them any of these ways. I will though.

Mr. H. said...


How come every time we converse I end up hungry. I swear I might have to go visit Germany just for the food.:)

It's funny how often I find myself perusing German recipes. I have "The German Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Mastering Authentic German Cooking" By Mimi Sheraton on my Amazon wish list.

It's supposed to be a good one.

Mr. H. said...


Thank you, I'm so glad to hear that I am not the only one who struggles with cabbage. This is our best year ever and I still was not all that impressed.

I will try your recipe as it is exactly the type of side dish we enjoy around here.

Silke said...

Hi Mike,

To me "real" German cooking is incredible! It's not the heavy sort of German food you get here at Oktoberfest, but it can be quite the refined cuisine.

I still have some old, old German cookbooks that have been in my family that not only tell you how to cook, but also how to keep house, what to plant when, how to work with your kitchen help and how to keep your family happy. ;)

I haven't heard of the cookbook you mention, but I bet it's good. I have quite a collection of German cookbooks and once in a while I make a "real" German meal. So good!!

Michelle said...

I wonder if the climate that we grow our vegetables in has anything to do with our food preferences, my favorite cuisines are all Mediterranean.

Gigante kohlrabi did well for me this year also, unfortunately the rats love it as much as I do. I found a number of them to be hollow when I wanted to harvest them. You didn't want to be within earshot when I found that out...

Mr. H. said...


Daniel and winslow are very lucky fellows...and Ramses too.:)

Mr. H. said...


I think that where a person lives does play a role in what they eat. I love Mediterranean food, especially Greek, and we do incorporate lots of olive oil, garlic, peppers, and eggplants into our diet but obviously not as much as if we lived in a warmer climate.

But you are right, my diet is based around our garden and in the winter months we tend more towards cold climate cuisine.

Rats in the kohlrabi, now that would be maddening.

Ruralrose said...

Invaluable information on this blog, much better than Mother Earth News even, and the comments stimulate such fascinating convervation, never knew kohlrabi got so big, am always trying to get my brassicas through the winter too, your post makes me excited to start over again in spring, thanks, you guys should be almost ready to hibernate, peace for all

Ruralrose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. H. said...


Thanks for your kind words. It really is nice to be able to share ideas with others in this way, I learn something new almost every day.

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