A friend of mine who lives in Seattle tends a little plot of land near her apartment.
Despite the fact that she had neglected weeding for some time, the crops she planted were doing fine. There is great variation among the individual plants, however. Some are larger than others, even of the same species.
The soil is very sandy. Her small garden, nestled among many others whose caretakers live nearby as well, is in Ballard, near the locks. Hence the sandy soil? When building and dredging the waters did workers pile their loads here, right where these urban gardeners work on growing both food and beauty.
There are some terrific flowering plants. Some tenants obviously prefer colorful flowers over items to put on the dinner table. While the flowers are nice, I’d like to see more people growing their own food, Victory Garden style.
I was helping a friend of my friend move to another apartment on the other side of the building. Thankfully it was on the same floor, so the moving wasn’t difficult. There really wasn’t much stuff.
When we had finished with the moving, my friend asked if I’d like to stay help her weed the garden.
“Sure,” I replied.
The plots aren’t big. In fact, they are tiny. Soon we were off to do some gardening.
My friend, and sometimes part-time employer, is growing something I’d never heard of before. It is called kohlrabi.
I asked her about it, but she didn’t know anything besides the fact that it is easy to grow and she likes to eat it.
Nuisance plants had overtaken the central part of her plot. It was mostly clover, mixed with various weeds and grass. The clover had developed an impressive network of roots and offshoots, requiring quite a bit of digging and pulling. It was so extensive that some of it remains, though I have vowed to return and conquer it.
Once we had finished our work for the day, I grabbed my laptop and hopped online, after she showed me the package of seeds. Her plants were a variety known as White Vienna. Given that name and its spelling, kohl, I assumed it was German.
Sure enough, it is literally translated as German turnip. The name comes from the German word for cabbage, kohl and rübe, the word for turnip. The Swiss German variant is rabi.
The plant is descended from the wild cabbage plant, the same ancestor of modern-day cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts. Isn’t it amazing so many varying plants originate from wild cabbage?
Wild cabbage is European.
It is native to coastal southern and western Europe. Its tolerance of salt and lime and its intolerance of competition from other plants typically restrict its natural occurrence to limestone sea cliffs, like the chalk cliffs on both sides of the English Channel.
Kohlrabi is a more refined, better tasting version.
The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet.
There are several varieties: White Vienna, Purple Vienna, Grand Duke, Gigante (or Superschmelz), Purple Danube, and White Danube. Some varieties are grown as feed for cattle.
Kohlrabi is a popular vegetable among diverse cultures.
Kohlrabi is one of the most commonly eaten vegetables in Kashmir.
It is also used frequently in southern Indian cuisine.