By John Wallace, SIFT Farm Manager
Kohlrabi is a strange-looking vegetable that often gets passed up in the produce section because people are unfamiliar with it. However, it is a versatile vegetable that can be used in many different recipes. Kohlrabi is a brassica, similar to cabbage and broccoli. It has been bred for lateral meristem growth, which results in a spherical, edible stem that is above ground. Its name comes from the German words Kohl, meaning cabbage, and Rabi, meaning turnip. Though kohlrabi is commonly used in Germany, varieties are also grown in northern Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh.
|Kohlrabi. Image: Pauk, Wikimedia Commons|
Kohlrabi can be started indoors and transplanted or directly seeded outside when there is no more risk of frost. Like most brassicas, they prefer cooler temperatures and make a good spring and fall crop. Heat can cause the plants to bolt early and never develop the edible globe. Early varieties of kohlrabi can take as little as 45 days to reach maturity. The larger they grow, the woodier the texture of the stem becomes. It is best to harvest them when they are younger and sweeter. When picked young, the inside flesh is tender and juicy, similar to an apple. Its flavor is milder and sweeter compared to cabbage, and it can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw kohlrabi is high in vitamin c and is a good source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium.
One of my favorite things to do with raw kohlrabi is to make a slaw. Simply julienne kohlrabi, carrots, or any other vegetables you prefer. To make a basic slaw dressing, combine mayonnaise, cider vinegar, sugar, and salt. I find that kohlrabi gives the slaw an enhanced flavor compared to just using cabbage. You can also make a sweet kohlrabi salad by using apples, red onion, and raisins. Any salad can be topped with some diced kohlrabi to add a crisp bite.
Kohlrabi can be cooked as well. Sometimes this is necessary if you are using larger, woodier bulbs. One easy side dish is baked kohlrabi. To do this, remove the outer skin if it is woody and slice the inside flesh into ÂĽâ€ť thick pieces. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and lay them out on a baking sheet. Cook the kohlrabi at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Kohlrabi can be steamed, braised, and fried and is an excellent addition to stir fries.
The leaves can be used, especially if they are young and tender. Similar to turnip leaves, you can braise them or simply simmer them in stock. One unique idea for using kohlrabi leaves is to blend or chop the leaves finely with some basil, pine nuts, and garlic to make a pesto. The possibilities are endless with kohlrabi because the mild flavor blends well with almost any seasoning and the bulbs are good filler. Next time you see this freakish looking vegetable on the shelves, give it a try!