How to Grow Unusual Vegetables Like Romanesco Broccoli and Kohlrabi

How to Grow Unusual Vegetables Like Romanesco Broccoli and Kohlrabi

Introduction

Growing unusual vegetables can be an exciting way to add diversity and interest to your garden. While crops like tomatoes, peppers and lettuce are garden staples, venturing into lesser known options like Romanesco broccoli and kohlrabi brings new flavors, textures, and visual appeal.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know to successfully grow these and other unique vegetables right at home.

An Overview of Romanesco Broccoli

Romanesco broccoli is an eye-catching, spiraling green vegetable that is a natural cross between broccoli and cauliflower. It has a mild, sweet, nutty flavor.

Here’s a quick rundown of Romanesco broccoli:

  • Appearance: Lime green heads formed by spiraling, conical florets. Resembles fractals.

  • Flavor: Subtler and nuttier than broccoli when cooked.

  • Best uses: Roasting, sautéing, steaming. Can be eaten raw.

  • Growing conditions: Thrives in cool weather. Needs consistently moist soil.

Romanesco is easier to grow than regular broccoli and less prone to bolting. It’s an unusual edible that adds ornamental value to the garden as well.

How to Grow Romanesco Broccoli

Growing Romanesco broccoli successfully requires paying attention to sun exposure, soil needs, and climate conditions. Here are some tips:

Choosing the Right Location

  • Romanesco thrives in full sun. Choose a spot that gets 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

  • Give Romanesco rich, moist soil high in organic matter. Amend with compost before planting.

  • Romanesco is a cool weather crop. Plant for a harvest in moderate temperatures.

When to Plant

  • Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost date.

  • Harden off seedlings then transplant outdoors 3-4 weeks before last frost.

  • For a fall crop, sow seeds directly in prepared soil 8-10 weeks before your first fall frost date.

Planting Tips

  • Sow seeds 1⁄4-1⁄2 inch deep in rows 18-24 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 12 inches between plants.

  • Water soil regularly keeping it consistently moist, about 1-2 inches per week.

  • Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks after transplanting.

  • Install supports for plant stems as heads form.

Harvesting Romanesco

  • Romanesco heads mature 7-11 weeks after transplanting. Harvest when heads reach 5-7 inches wide.

  • Use a sharp knife to cut the central head stalk at its base when the florets are tightly closed.

  • Harvest before florets start to open and turn yellow. Timely harvesting prevents bolting.

  • Romanesco can be harvested multiple times as side shoots develop.

Follow these tips and you’ll be harvesting beautiful, spiraling heads of Romanesco broccoli from your garden.

Growing Kohlrabi – A Unique Brassica

Kohlrabi is an odd-looking vegetable that offers a delicious, turnip-like taste and bulbous stem. It thrives with the same care as other brassicas like cabbage, broccoli and kale.

Here’s an overview of kohlrabi’s characteristics:

  • Appearance: Round bulbs attached to stems. Pale green or purple skin. Resembles a spaceship.

  • Flavor: Sweet and mild. Similar to broccoli stems or turnip.

  • Best uses: Roasting, mashing, raw in slaws or salads. Leaves can be cooked like kale.

  • Growing conditions: Cool weather. Consistent moisture.

Follow these tips for successfully raising kohlrabi.

Choosing the Right Location

  • Kohlrabi grows best in full sun. Choose a spot with at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.

  • It prefers rich, well-draining soil with a pH between 6-7.5. Add compost before planting.

  • Grow kohlrabi in the coolest parts of spring and fall. Hot summers cause bolting.

When to Plant Kohlrabi

  • Direct sow seeds in early spring, 2-4 weeks before your last frost date.

  • For fall kohlrabi, sow seeds 8-10 weeks before your first fall frost.

  • Can also be started indoors 6 weeks prior to transplanting outside.

Planting and Care

  • Sow seeds 1⁄2 inch deep in rows 18 inches apart. Thin to 4-6 inches between plants.

  • Water regularly to keep soil consistently moist, not saturated. Kohlrabi has shallow roots.

  • Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.

  • Harvest bulbs when they reach 2-3 inches in diameter, while still tender.

Harvesting Kohlrabi

  • Pull up bulbs by the stalks when they reach golf ball size, before they become woody.

  • Use a sharp knife to cut off leaves, then peel the tough outer skin.

  • Kohlrabi can be harvested repeatedly as new bulbs form, if not allowed to bolt.

With proper planting times and care, it’s easy to grow abundant kohlrabi with its unique, turnip-like flavor.

Other Unusual Vegetables to Try Growing

Romanesco broccoli and kohlrabi are just the beginning when it comes to unusual edibles. Here are a few more interesting vegetables to add to your garden:

Charentais Melon

These small French melons have a heavenly sweet and perfumed flavor. Grow like cantaloupe but on the smaller side.

Ground Cherry

Also called husk tomatoes, these self-pollinating treats grow in papery husks and taste like pineapple.

Sunchokes

The tubers of this sunflower relative taste like artichokes. Great roasted or in soup.

Agretti

Also called “barba di frate”, this broccoli-flavored green has long, spiky leaves.

Tomatillo

Grow this green tomato-like fruit to make delicious homemade salsa verde.

With some adventure, you can create a vegetable garden that’s full of intrigue and conversation-starting appeal. Try adding a few of these unique edibles this season.

Conclusion

Expanding your vegetable repertoire beyond common staples by growing specialty produce like Romanesco broccoli and kohlrabi brings new flavors and eye-catching garden appeal.

With attention to sun exposure, soil, climate and timing, it’s possible to successfully harvest unusual vegetables right at home. Let your imagination run wild. Gardening is an ongoing experiment!

I hope these tips give you the confidence to grow intriguing vegetables and add new dimensions to your garden. Let me know if you have questions! I’m always happy to discuss gardening.