The first known references to kohlrabi date to the first century, when it appeared in Roman recipes. Use of the plant spread throughout Europe, and in the ninth century, it grew in the imperial gardens of Charlemagne. By the 1600s, the plant reached India, where it became a staple food.
Kohlrabi descends from the wild cabbage, which also gave rise to broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts and modern variations of cabbage. The origins of the plant's domestication and breeding to create the various foods predate written history. By Greek and Roman times, variations of wild cabbage were well-known food sources. Kohlrabi diverged from the other wild cabbage foods due to artificial selection for a large, round stem. The literal translation of the German word "kholrabi" means "cabbage turnip."