Food for Thought – 1

In the summer of 2020, Urbainculteurs set up an urban farm on the former site of the Old Port market, Jardins du bassin Louise. Within this new project, I’m responsible for planning and supervising the annual vegetable production. What a great challenge! As space is limited, I have to choose the vegetables wisely while cultivating a good variety. I make sure there is a rigorous succession of plantings in order to maximize production space. But above all, I try to incorporate new foods as well as lesser-known varieties into production. This is for the purpose of discovery and education, but also, I admit, for my personal pleasure!

As I write this article, I have just finished planning for next year. This task completely draws me in, I feel like I’m writing the history of the urban farm for 2023, I can’t wait! What I like the most is definitely the selection of varieties. Some like to leaf through homedeco or architecture magazines. Well for me, leafing through a seed catalog is like picking out gifts in the making. There are all these shapes, these colors, these growth speeds, the choice can even become dizzying. I love it!

Jardins du bassin Louise in autumn 2021
Credit : Les Urbainculteurs

Raising Interest

Over the past three years, I’ve really enjoyed seeing the volunteers as well as the participants at the farm discover these foods. I saw suspicious looks and surprised looks. Some discovered a vegetable in the garden that they had always and only seen on a grocery store display. Brussels sprouts are still one of my favorites. Some vegetables were simply unknown or misunderstood. People have told me they don’t like a vegetable without ever having tasted it and finally admit to me that it was excellent after tasting it in the garden. We tried lots of things.

What amuses me the most is the role of culinary interpreter that my colleague and I play. Demystifying these vegetables in the kitchen is often the biggest challenge to their adoption in the garden. Luckily, we love to cook and have more than one recipe up our sleeve! There were a lot of favorites and obviously some vegetables were less popular. In all cases, new horizons have been revealed. I like to believe that we have slowly been blazing the trail of new vegetables. I know that several volunteers have now integrated these into their garden and their kitchen.

Some were more impactful than others, and not necessarily the ones I would have thought of. As it’s never too early to dream of your garden, I thought that telling you about some of these vegetables during the winter months could inspire you for the next season. So let’s dive right in with a first suggestion, the cutest of them all, kohlrabi.

Why Not Kohlrabi?

The first year we grew kohlrabi, I found that a large proportion of people had never seen or even tasted this vegetable. Its atypical shape arouses curious glances. It looks like a small ball on a stand with scattered leaves as a hair-do. How not to fall in love?

A fresh kohlrabi
Credit : Les Urbainculteurs

As you probably know, kohlrabi is part of the large cabbage family, the brassicas. Plants in this family usually do very well in cool weather (and often prefer it). The urban farm being located in Quebec, I can grow these kohlrabies from the beginning of May. During the last two years, I planted a first generation at this time, then a second around the middle of July for an autumn harvest. These were great successes. For 2023, I wanted to take a risk and I planned a third generation between the two, at the beginning of June. Good or bad idea? I will tell you in my 2023 review!

Growing Conditions

Kohlrabi likes to grow in the sun, but it will tolerate light shade. Anytime I’ve grown it in more shady spots, it has grown a lot slower. Think about it when you make your garden plan. We sow it indoors about 30 days before planting. No need for transplanting, it is directly transferred to the vegetable garden after its acclimatization. It is planted on the row at a distance of 15 cm between each plant and let’s count about 20 cm between the rows. Only one fertilization is done during planting. Note that we also amend our beds annually with a generous supply of worm castings.

It does not need pruning, staking or special attention. I found that it was less prone to pest attacks compared to its companions from the same family. For these reasons, we grow it in the open, without a protective net. We harvest it when it reaches the size of a tennis ball. But be careful, don’t wait too long, it could develop a fibrous texture or even crack. Cut the stem directly under the ball. You can then give it a “haircut”, i.e. cut the leaves all around and on top of the vegetable. This way, it will keep for quite a long time in the fridge.

A burst kohlari
Credit : Les Urbainculteurs

In the Kitchen

But the big question that always comes up is: “How to cook this vegetable?”. First, the tough skin is removed with a knife. The easiest way to consume it is raw. It’s crunchy and fresh, I would even say a little sweet. The taste of cabbage is recognizable, but subtle. For my part, I like to cut it into juliennes and marinate it in rice vinegar with a little sugar, to incorporate into spring rolls, for example. You can enhance your summer salads with a few thin slices. It can be roasted in the oven or even cooked en papillote with the fat of your choice. There are so many ways to show it off, you just have to try it!


Do you want to add it to your garden? Put some in your vegetable patch next year, you won’t be disappointed. Kohlrabi is a very aesthetic vegetable that fits perfectly into an edible landscape. We have been growing it in containers for several year. It performs just as well in pots as it does in the ground. There are green varieties and purple ones. I suggest you mix the colors when planting, it looks great! If you ever develop a mad love for kohlrabi, know that there are even giant varieties that retain their good taste despite impressive dimensions. With this in your garden, you will certainly make a big impact!

A giant kohlari!
Credit : Fabre graines

So that’s my first suggestion. Perhaps you have just discovered or rediscovered this fabulous vegetable that is rather easy to grow. Let kohlrabi shine in every garden!

This is my last post for 2022. The Urbainculteurs are taking a little winter break to conclude another great season filled with projects of all kinds. I wish you a sweet and restful end of the year, in company of those who are dear to you. I’ll come back to you in 2023 with a new suggestion.

Happy holidays!

Marie-Andrée is the urban farm manager and a trainer at Urbainculteurs, where she has been working since 2015. She plans and supervises the production of Jardins du bassin Louise, an urban vegetable farm with a social and educational vocation. Outstanding at teaching, she also co-hosts the podcast Mâche-patate and is one of the main trainers of the Urbainculteurs online training course. Les Urbainculteurs is a non-profit organization, based in Quebec since 2009. Their mission: to develop and promote a productive, accessible and responsible urban agriculture for the benefit of organizations and individuals, in order to increase food security, improve our living environments and promote an ecological transition.

5 comments on “Food for Thought – 1

  1. Linda Bradley

    I love the taste of kohlabi! How to keep the worms out?

  2. Thank you for sharing. kohlrabi is delicious and grow easily!

  3. Christine Lemieux

    Interesting job you have! I enjoyed this article. Happy Holidays!

  4. Was really loving your post even before you introduced Giant Kohlrabi! That took it way over the top for me – already sourced and ordered seed for 2023.

  5. Jt Michaels

    Applauding your work and yes, kohlrabi is both delicious and easy to grow!

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