I’m going to be completely honest, before moving to Champaign four years ago and beginning to work on local farms, I had never tried kohlrabi.
There, I said it. I had never tried the crazy, Sputnik-looking vegetable that I had seen at farmers market, after farmers market, after farmers market in Chicago. I dismissed it because I didn’t know what the hell to do with it or even what it was. Now, it’s one of my favorite early-summer snacks. It’s sooooo refreshing to eat and is perfect for any kind of dip. And who doesn’t like dip? There is something so deeply satisfying in the freedom to control the dip to vessel/snack proportion to suit your own tastes and needs. Mmmmm, dip.
I’m embarrassed by my love of dip, but not as much as I am embarrassed by my dismissal of a delicious local vegetable until I was almost 30. Don’t let this happen to anyone you know, whether they be a family member or random stranger. Share your knowledge and food interests with everyone around you, they will thank you in the long run for making them try something new. Just remember, you should always try something 3 times before you say you don’t like it. So be persistent. And if you haven’t tried kohlrabi you should definitely pick some up as soon as possible, slice it up, and try it with your favorite dip.
Now, we’ll cover some basics about the weirdest looking vegetable in this blog, but there is much much more out there for you to learn about kohlrabi. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, then you can be more adventurous at your own pace. Now let’s get weird.
Did you know…
In German, kohl means “cabbage,” and rabi means “turnip,” which is quite the literal name for what kohlrabi is. Kohlrabi tastes like cabbage and looks like a turnip, albeit a spiney turnip that is sprouting leaves reminiscent of a cross between kale and collards. Kohlrabi resembles a root vegetable, but actually, the edible globe is the modified swollen stem of the plant and grows above ground. White, purple and green varieties exist, however the external color is purely superficial and both colors have the same pale-yellow flesh.
Kohlrabi is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber, and is a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, phosphorous, and manganese, among other minerals. Kohlrabi, like many other vegetables, is most nutritious when consumed raw, so adding it raw to soups, noodle dishes, stir-fry, or salads is typically the best way to eat it when factoring in nutional value.
Buying & Storing:
When shopping for kohlrabi, especially right now in early summer as the spring kohlrabi is starting to come to market, look for globes that measure about 2-3 inches in diameter. Unless they are of the Gigante variety, spring kohlrabi will tend to get a little woody if they are larger than 3-3.5 inches wide. Personally, I like to get kohlrabi that has the leaves still attached. But later in the season the leaves tend to be removed by farmers so that the kohlrabi can be stored for longer.
Store the kohlrabi globe and the leaves separately. You can either cut off the stems near the base, or snap them off as they are fairly delicate and snap easily near where they attach to the globe. The globe will last for one month refrigerated in a plastic bag, possible longer. Wrap the leaves in a damp towel, or place in a plastic bag, and keep in the hydrator/crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Use the greens as soon as possible, though they will last about a week if stored properly. The globe can be pickled or frozen whole for long-term storage.
Remove greens from the globe and wash both parts separately. Trim away any woody or tough portions of the skin. Kohlrabi does not have to be peeled but due to the two fibrous layers around the globe, it tends to be. To peel it you can use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layers, or you can cut off the top and bottom of the globe and then remove the sides with a knife. I personally prefer the knife method because the places where the leaves meet the globe can be a pain to navigate with a peeler.
After washing the greens, the center ribs are typically removed just as the ribs of kale are removed. The greens of kohlrabi can be used like other greens (think collards and kale) and added to salad mixes, sautéed, or added to pasta dishes. They also hold up nicely in soups and can be a nice addition to spring veggie pestos. Just the other day I added kohlrabi leaves to a pesto I made with napini, kale, and scallions and it was amazing. So, as always, I encourage you
Having done a bit more cooking with kohlrabi and spring turnips in the last month than in previous years. I’m constantly amazed by the verstility of the two. In fact, I think you could probably substitute kohlrabi for turnips in many instances if you felt so inclined or wanted to experiment with new ways to prepare kohlrabi. That being said, I will always come back to interesting ways use kohlrabi in it’s raw or slightly sautéd form as I really love the delicious crunch of kohlrabi. It just reminds me of summer. Now I really want to be outside grilling on my patio, but I’m stuck in the office. Thanks kohlrabi!!
So here are some of the basic cooking instructions for kohlrabi. It is by no means difinitive.
Raw – This is by far the most versatile “cooking” option in my mind. Once you’ve peeled the globe you can grate, slice, cube, or matchstick kohlrabi and add to salads, cold noodle dishes, soups, tacos, or slaws. It has a very similar texture and flavor to broccoli stems, but sweeter. It really reminds me of spring turnips or the center of cabbage. You can even peel and eat as you would an apple or slice it and use it with dip. You know I love eating kohlrabi with dip, but just to reiterate, it’s great with dip.
Sautéing – Peel the outer layers if you feel they are tough. Then, cube or matchstick the kohlrabi and toss with some oil, salt, and pepper. Sauté on medium-high heat until slightly browned. Add more vegetables and some rice for a delicious stir-fry, or add herbs and butter to the kohlrabi and eat as a side dish.
Steaming – Place a steamer rack over about 1-inch of water in a pot and bring the water to a boil. Peel and then steam kohlrabi whole for 25-30 minutes or in thin slices for 5-10 minutes. Make sure the pot has a tight fitting lid so that the steam doesn’t escape. Once it is tender, remove the kohlrabi from the pot. Dress lightly with oil, lemon juice, dill weed, and some plain yogurt. You can even dip the steamed kohlrabi in flour (best when using sliced kohlrabi) and lightly fry.
Roasting – Slice kohlrabi into ¼ or ½ inch slices, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 for 15-20 minutes. Flip the sliced kohlrabi after about 8-10 minutes for even cooking and browning on both side.
Mashing – Cook kohlrabi however you desire and mash. Add to mashed potatoes and serve plain with butter, salt, and pepper, or form into patties and fry in butter for delicious potato-kohlrabi pancakes.
Martha Stewart – 10 Delicious Ideas for Cooking with Kohlrabi
NOTE: Most of these recipes do not involve much cooking and are fairly good, simple recipes