Seed Saving: Kohlrabi

I’ve mentioned before that we grow a variety of kohlrabi that get very large without getting woody.  The seeds are from Slovakia, Rick’s grandfather brings them to us.  Because we’ve never found this variety of kohlrabi in a seed catalog or garden center, and because Rick’s grandparents don’t go back to Slovakia regularly anymore, I decided that I better figure out how to save kohlrabi seeds.

Kohlrabi is a biennial, meaning it won’t go to seed until its second year of life.  Which meant in order for us to gather seeds, we’d need to keep it alive during the winter.  Last fall I left five large, healthy, likely looking candidates in the ground.  I imagined that I’d heavily mulch them with straw or leaves or something, but I never got around to it before the snow came.  So we took our chances.

Spring came and the kohlrabi looked a little sad.  The leaves were very droopy.  Some of the smaller ones didn’t make it at all.  But by April, the three largest looked like this:

As they continued to grow, they cannibalized their bulbs and sent up great big stalks.

By May they had grown flowers.  Yellow ones.

At the end of June they were setting seeds.

In July the pods started to dry and the birds started pecking away.  I was pretty nervous about losing everything that I’d been keeping alive for two years.

But I held out a little longer and when most of the pods were brown, I cut the stalks off and took them to the garage to dry completely.

And I am happy to report success in saving our first seeds ever.

I’m still working on separating them from the chaff.  I’m sure there’s a better way than what we’re doing… there has to be.  But I am very pleased that we will still have these special seeds.

Have you saved seed before?  Do you have a trick for separating the seeds from the chaff?

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Categories: Garden, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Seed Saving: Kohlrabi

  1. Amanda

    This is delightful and I am so glad it orked out for you! I love saving my own seeds, they are special that way. I have been saving and groing seeds from a yellow zinna which has no significance but that when I was little I swiped a dried up blossom from my grandmothers house, inside of which were the already-ripe seeds. In the event that the unspeakable happens and you lose your well earned seeds, see here: http://www.cooksgarden.com/vegetables/kohlrabi/kohlrabi-gigante-prod000260.html?cid=PPC

  2. So glad to see that your long term experiment was a success! Sorry if this is a duplicate comment but the first one didn’t seem to go through well. In the event that you ever have a kohlrabi catastrophe, you can check out the Cooks Garden link below. I know its not a special as you original seeds but it will do in a pinch!

    http://www.cooksgarden.com/vegetables/kohlrabi/kohlrabi-gigante-prod000260.html?cid=PPC

  3. Separating chaff from seeds is a pain, but fairly easy – just mind-numbing and time-consuming. In a perfect world, you have a strainer or colander with the perfect sized holes to let the seeds drop through while most of the chaff stays behind. If that’s not the case, you can go one of several ways, the easiest being… drop the seeds and chaff in a slow, steady stream from one bowl to another (placed a couple feet below) on a mildly windy day. Not too windy or your seeds will blow away with the chaff. Repeat this process several times and stop when you feel your seeds are de-chaffed enough. The other is the same thing, but using a fan so you can control the wind flow a bit better. I’ve used a fan (indoors) in the past with kale seeds (they are identical in size and appearance to kohlrabi seeds) nad would have great success if I didn’t have a curious kitten. As it is, I had moderate success.

    If you want to collect seeds again but don’t want to overwinter your crop, plant them super close and they might bolt from that. I accidentally got some carrot seeds one year when the package fell at planting time and I decided to just go with it – a couple of the carrots that came up in that little patch bolted from the lack of moisture and stress of being too close.

    Also, yum! Those kohlrabi look wonderful!

  4. Cynthia in Denver

    Looks amazing! You would make Seed Savers proud!

    We currently have Dragon Carrot going to seed! I missed one last year and it has turned into a beautiful behemoth ready to go to seed any day now! I have trimmed the mesclun and need to separate seed/chaff.

  5. For small amounts of seed, which looks like what you’ve got, I’ve had luck in the past just putting a handful of the stuff in my slightly cupped palm and shaking a little bit. Usually most of the chaff floats out and the heavier seeds stay behind. Do this a couple of times and most of your chaff will be gone. The rest of it? Well that depends on how much it actually bothers you. ;-)

    • Or get your kids to sort them – some kids really like that kind of activity. :-)

    • We have quite a bit more – I was just trying to gather enough for a decent picture. ;) Putting the kids on it is the plan!

  6. Wow, thanks for sharing those great photos. It’s amazing how big that kohlrabi stalk got! I was able to gather some kale seeds this summer. They looked just like the kohlrabi flowers and pods. It took me awhile, watching those pods develop after the flowering to figure out that I was even looking at seed pods, which is to say I didn’t really set out to save the seeds, I just never pulled the kale up. I ended up just grabbing handfuls of the dried pods and crumpling them over top of a big bowl so that the seeds would fall in it. I still had to hand pick the chaff out but it wasn’t too bad.

  7. Pingback: Tips for Using Your Push Mower | The Lazy Homesteader

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