Kohlrabi is a vegetable that has fallen off of most people’s vegetable radar. I remember my mother cooking it when it was given to her by friends who had gardens, but I personally had never prepared it. While kohlrabi has been in common use throughout Italy, France and Germany, we Americans have never given it much notice. For those who are not familiar with kohlrabi its appearance is odd, with a sort of Sputnik-shaped globe with multiple stems sprouting out from the round part. Kohlrabi is often mistakenly referred to as a root vegetable, but in fact it grows just above ground, forming a unique, turnip-shaped swelling at the base of the stem. Both this round globe and its leaves can be eaten. It is a member of the cabbage family but is not a cross between cabbage and turnips as some think. This incorrect assumption has been perpetuated by the German name, “kohl” meaning cabbage and “rabi” meaning turnip.
Kohlrabi is very low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. The bulb of the kohlrabi contains lots of vitamin C, while eating the leaves will give you a good amount of vitamin A. It’s also a good source for dietary fiber, magnesium, phosphorus and B6. It is low in calories too, with one cup of cooked diced kohlrabi containing about 40 calories.
Though the flavor of kohlrabi is not terribly assertive, delicate hints of cabbage and broccoli come to the foreground, a bit accented with radish flavor. Tender, young kohlrabi is delicious eaten raw. Peel the outer skin with a paring knife and slice, dice, or grate into salads, use raw on vegetable platters, serve with a creamy dip or add it to your slaw recipes. Another way to think of it is as a substitute for recipes that call for radishes. Kohlrabi can also be cooked, and you can steam or boil it until bulbs are tender. It can be sautéed, stuffed and baked, and seem to pair very well with apples, celeriac, squash and fennel. If the leaves are attached to the kohlrabi they can also be enjoyed as a cooked green. Just wash the leaves and remove the ribs, then blanch in boiling water until just wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze excess water from leaves and chop, saute in a little olive oil or butter and season with salt and pepper, and don’t forget to add a splash of vinegar or some fresh lemon juice to bring out their great flavor. I am looking forward to preparing and enjoying our fresh kohlrabi, and am going to do my best to get it back on my vegetable radar!