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In Season: Kohlrabi
Featured Kohlrabi Recipes
About Kohlrabi
When it comes to kohlrabi (cole-rah-bee), the adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies. Take one look at a fresh kohlrabi, and you may think a mini alien spaceship had landed at your farmer’s market or in your CSA (community supported agriculture) veggie share. Don’t let kohlrabi’s exotic name and peculiar looks deter you from trying this mild-tasting and nutritious vegetable.

Kohlrabi is a German word that literally means cabbage (kohl) turnip (rabi). It is not, however, a cross between these vegetables. Botanically, kohlrabi is related to cabbage and broccoli. And, although kohlrabi is turnip-shaped, it is neither a turnip nor a root vegetable.

When it comes to its strange looks, kohlrabi earns nicknames like “alien vegetable” and “sputnik vegetable.” Just above ground level, its stem swells into a small, turnip-shaped bulb with white, pale green or purple skin. Slender stalks resembling spinach or broccoli leaves emerge like tentacles, growing upward from the top and sides.

Kohlrabi, a native of Northern Europe, is an easy to grow, cool-weather crop with two main seasons: spring and fall. In the United States, look for white, pale green and purple varieties at farmer’s markets and specialty food stores. All have the same green-tinged, ivory colored flesh. For best flavor and texture, select small, young kohlrabi, no larger than 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

The entire vegetable is edible. The bulbous stem tastes like fresh, crunchy broccoli stems while the leafy appendages remind one of kale and other greens. Eat young and tender kohlrabi bulbs raw, thinly-sliced with a little salt, or diced and julienned for slaws and salads. Kohlrabi is also delicious cooked – try it roasted, grilled, stir-fried or simmered in soups and stews.

Kohlrabi Facts and Figures

Kohlrabi, Brassica oleracea (Gongylodes Group), belongs to the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae (mustard) family that includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts and offers similar nutritional benefits. Kohlrabi is an excellent source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C and potassium with a negligible amount of fat and no cholesterol. One cup of raw, diced kohlrabi contains about 36 calories.

Like other members of the Brassica or Crucifer family, kohlrabi contains glucosinolates, a phytochemical that may protect against certain cancers and other diseases.

A Brief History of Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi originated in northern Europe and descended from the wild cabbage. According to legend, around 800 AD, Charlemagne, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, ordered kohlrabi grown throughout his empire which included parts of modern-day Germany. This may account for the fact that kohlrabi is German for cabbage turnip.

Written records from the mid-1500s indicate kohlrabi’s presence in Germany. By the end of the 16th century, kohlrabi was known in Germany, England, Italy, Spain and eastern Mediterranean countries. In the 1600’s, kohlrabi made its way to northern India where it became a staple of the Hindu diet.

First records of kohlrabi’s presence in the United States date to around 1800. Although a popular vegetable in Europe and other countries, kohlrabi never gained favor in the United States.

Today, Germany is the world’s largest producer and consumer of kohlrabi. Kohlrabi is also common in the cuisines of India, Israel, China and Africa. In the United States, American chefs and households are rediscovering kohlrabi thanks to the proliferation of farmer’s markets, home vegetable gardens and community supported agriculture (CSA).

How to Select Kohlrabi

In the United States, look for white, pale green and purple kohlrabi in farmer’s markets and specialty food stores. Kohlrabi is a cool weather crop with two main growing seasons: spring and fall.

In the spring, the best kohlrabi is young and two inches or less in diameter with healthy, unblemished skin and leafy appendages still attached. The stem bulb should be firm and crisp and the leafy appendages, green and unwilted. These are best for eating raw. Larger kohlrabi tends to be woody and fibrous with a tough outer layer that must be peeled before cooking.
During the fall harvest, you can choose kohlrabi up to four inches in diameter without sacrificing flavor and texture.

Regardless of the season, avoid buying kohlrabi with brown or yellow leaves or cracks in the stem bulb.

How to Store Kohlrabi
Use just-bought or just-picked kohlrabi as soon as possible for optimum flavor and texture. Remember, the longer you store kohlrabi, the woodier it becomes.

To Store in Refrigerator:
  • Remove the edible green, leafy appendages and store in plastic bag. Use these greens within two days.
  • If you plan to use the kohlrabi within few days, place bulbs in plastic bag and store in a cold, moist refrigerator bin for up to one week.
  • To store longer, wrap kohlrabi in moist towel and keep in a cold, moist refrigerator bin for up to one month.

To Store in Freezer
  • Wash kohlrabi then remove leaves, slice off top and woody base, and peel. Then, if desired, cut into halves, cubes or slices.
  • Blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes (whole or halves) or 1-1/2 minutes (cubes or slices). Remove from boiling water and plunge immediately into ice water bath. Drain and pat dry with towel.
  • Place blanched kohlrabi in freezer-safe bag, squeeze to remove air, seal tightly and place in freezer. Be sure to label and date each packet.
  • Kohlrabi will keep in the freezer for up to one year.

How to Prepare Kohlrabi

  • Place kohlrabi in colander. Rinse well under running water. Drain and pat dry with towel.
  • If you have not already done so, cut or pull-off leafy appendages from the bulb. The stems and leaves are edible. Prepare and cook them as you would kale and other greens.
  • If the kohlrabi is small, simply cut off the tough woody base and slice, dice or julienne. Peeling is optional.
  • If the kohlrabi is large, cut off the tough woody base and remove thick skin with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Then, slice or dice before cooking.

How to Cook with Kohlrabi

Enjoy kohlrabi either raw or cooked. Remember, both the stem bulb and leafy appendages are edible. Prepare and cook the leaves as you would kale or spinach.

Here are some simple ideas for serving kohlrabi. Because kohlrabi is mild-flavored, it blends well with stronger tasting ingredients and is delicious in salads and side dishes.

  • Eat the freshest kohlrabi raw. Cut small kohlrabi into thin slices, sprinkle with little salt and enjoy.
  • Slice raw kohlrabi for crudités and serve with your favorite dips.
  • Coarsely grate raw kohlrabi and add to salads or gratins.
  • Julienne raw kohlrabi and add to slaw.
  • Cut kohlrabi into chunks and roast in hot oven with carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, turnips and other vegetables. Before roasting, toss all vegetables in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Cube kohlrabi and add to soups and stews.
  • Boil kohlrabi in lightly salted water. Then mash like potatoes with butter, salt and pepper.
  • Cut kohlrabi into small, bite-sized chunks and toss with small amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap kohlrabi in aluminum foil (shiny side inside), sealing edges tightly. Place foil packet on grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Flip packet and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes.

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