Kohlrabi: Characteristics and cultivation guide

Tomato, pepper, aubergine … None of that! Nature offers us a lot of plant crosses from which we can obtain very interesting fruits such as the nabicol or kohlrabi , a cross between cabbage and turnip.

Kohlrabi is a horticultural plant widely used in the gastronomy of northern Europe as well as in North America. It is not considered an artificial hybrid but a cross between 2 well-known species, resulting in the scientific name of Brassica napobrassica .

This combination of 2 plants of the brassica genus ( Brassica ) results in a fruit with a taste similar to turnip, but sweeter and with tones reminiscent of cabbage.

In this article we are going to comment on the main curiosities of this vegetable that not everyone knows, as well as a brief guide to its cultivation for those who want to dare to cultivate it in the garden.


The cruciferous genus includes more than 30 species , including cultivars and hybrids that are used today in gastronomy. They are well known in northern Europe, where a multitude of salads and stews are prepared, with cabbage, Brussels sprouts and nabicol as standard bearers.

The nabicol plant has a medium size similar to broccoli , but formed by individual leaves and without the shape of a rosette. It easily exceeds 20 cm in height, not counting the roots.


It is a horticultural whose fruits are found in the root, as is the case of the turnip . This fruit has an average size of 10 cm in length and 8 or 10 cm in width, practically spherical and with a more flattened head, with a purplish-white or brown skin, and an interior with yellow or white pulp.

From each plant a fruit is obtained, which acts as a root and a reserve store. It usually tolerates the cold very well and is considered a resistant plant.


  • Order:  Brassicales
  • Family:  Brassicaceae
  • Genus: Brassica
  • Species:  Brassica napobrassica

Common names: nabicol, kohlrabi or rutabaga

Although kohlrabi is very present in northern Europe and also in North America, the consumption and volume of plantation of the Community of Galicia , in Spain, should not be neglected , where this vegetable is present in different Galician cuisine stews.



Kohlrabi and many other brassic species are plants that need cool climates to grow, not tolerating excessively hot temperatures. Therefore, it is a crop that is planted in winter in warm areas and at the beginning or end of winter in cold European areas.

It is important to maintain good lighting throughout the development of the crop , since this favors the accumulation of carbohydrates in the fruit and reduces the excessive development of the aerial part and the main stem, which reduces the energy available for the root.


Kohlrabi is grown in soils of medium texture , rich in organic matter and with adequate drainage. It is a root crop, so stagnant water generates rotting in the fruit that makes it commercially unusable.

In general, fresh soils are the ones that offer the best productions worldwide, avoiding their cultivation in sandy areas that produce little tender roots.

Regarding the pH, the ideal is near neutral or slightly alkaline, from pH 6.5 onwards. Highly acidic areas damage its development and the quality of the fruit.

It needs deep soils that allow a 10 cm root, so the soil is usually prepared at least 20 cm deep. To do this, the following tasks are carried out prior to planting kohlrabi or nabicol:

  • Plow to eliminate weeds and give depth to the soil, eliminating scabs.
  • Subsoiler to break up the soil and improve drainage.
  • Rotating harrow to improve the oxygenation of the medium and distribute well the plant remains from the previous campaign.
  • Formation of beds or furrows that improve the productivity of the kohlrabi.


The complete cycle depends on the planting date, but in the warmer months it lasts around 80 days , and in cold weather it lasts to 90-100 days.

It is sown from October in warm areas and mid-September in colder areas. However, it can also be grown throughout the year after winter (starting in February), except in very hot areas.

The planting frame for kohlrabi ranges from 30 to 40 cm between plants and 50 to 75 cm between rows.


It needs an adequate level of humidity, constantly keeping the substrate hydrated. Stress due to lack of water causes physiopathies related to anticipation of flowering, at which point the fruit loses value and turns bitter.


Unlike cabbage, kohlrabi is much less demanding of nutrients. Generally, a yield of 25 t / ha is obtained , much lower than that of cabbage, which has an approximate average of 40 t / ha.

Therefore, an average nutritional plan requires the following NPK fertilizer units:

  • Total nitrogen needs:  80-100 kg / ha
  • Total phosphorus needs:  40-60 kg / ha
  • Total potassium needs: 120-150 kg / ha

The preparation of the soil and the contribution of organic matter is very important , being optimal an average level in soil analysis of at least 2%, making contributions of 30 to 40 t / ha of manure or compost every 3 or 4 years.


In general, the pests and diseases that affect nabicol are common for the rest of the crucifers , finding specific species and others that are very generic and typical of many other crops (not necessarily from the same family).

Main pests

  • Cruciferous caterpillars ( Pieris sp L.): affect the leaves and reduce the leaf area.
  • Cruciferous aphid ( Brevicoryne brassicae ): they suck the sap from the leaves and nerves and reduce the energy of the plant.
  • Wire worm ( Agriotes spp): the main damages are caused by the larvae, which affect the roots, leaves and fruits.
  • Cabbage fly ( Delia radicum ): the damage is caused by the larvae, creating galleries in the leaves.

Main diseases

  • Downy mildew ( Peronospora brassicae Gaumann): affects the leaves, causing yellowish spots on the upper surface.
  • Rhizoctonia solani : soil fungus that causes brown spots on the neck and root.
  • White Rust ( Albugo candida Kunze): creates localized spots on the white leaf, totally chlorotic.


As a fruit of the Brassica genus , its mineral and vitamin content is very high, which is why it constitutes a vegetable that should be taken into account in any healthy diet.

The main properties and benefits of nabicol are the following:


In nabicol we find different polyphenols with antioxidant and free radical scavenging capacity , elements that produce cellular oxidation and damage the organism.

Among them we find carotenoids as the main source, whose consumption reduces premature aging and prevents different heart and inflammatory diseases and even different types of cancer.


Brassicas such as kohlrabi store a large amount of mineral elements, and among them the one that stands out the most is potassium. This element is important to regulate cell hydration and promote bone resistance, as well as being part of essential enzymes for the body (such as those responsible for obtaining energy).

Potassium is also related to good cardiovascular health , having a positive impact on hypertension.


The vitamin C , as recognized in fruits such as oranges, is also present in vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli or kohlrabi. This vitamin is very important to have a strong immune system, improving bone health and preventing serious diseases such as cancer.


Fiber is an element that we do not include in sufficient quantities in our diet. It is closely related to our digestive system , but it also works by preventing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other serious diseases.

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