Just like people, sometimes unique and interesting vegetables get a bad rap. To be appreciated, understood, and enjoyed they need a champion. Kohlrabi, (pronounced kohl-RAH-bee), the purple-tinged or pale green member of the brassica family, is my new star.
Kohlrabi looks like it may have come from outer space, with its round, bulbous stem, sprouting skinny stalks and dark green leaves. It actually hails from Germany, and is a low, stout cultivar of cabbage that will grow almost anywhere.
Kohlrabi prefers mild or cool weather. Here in Maine, we can enjoy kohlrabi throughout the season, and it is a delicious fall vegetable.
The name comes from the German, Kohl, meaning cabbage, and Rube, meaning turnip, or “cabbage turnip.” Kohlrabi was specifically bred and developed for its bulbous shape, which is actually the swollen base of the stem. It should be harvested when the stems reach 2 to 3 inches in diameter, as the larger stems tend to be tough and woody.
When eaten raw, kohlrabi tastes like a mild, sweet turnip or radish. When cooked, the flavor resembles broccoli. Kohlrabi is a powerhouse of nutritional benefits, rich in potassium and vitamins C and K.
All parts of the plant are edible. In some countries, kohlrabi is a staple vegetable and eaten several times a week. Kohlrabi may be grated for fresh salads, added to soups and stews, and adds a nice crunch to stir-fries. The bright, crisp flavors take well to a wide variety of cuisines. Giant kohlrabi, or Kossak, may be stored for up to four months in the root cellar….now that’s a star!
Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected].
ASIAN KOHLRABI SALAD
2 cups peeled and diced kohlrabi or 2 cups broccoli flowerets
1 carrot, scrubbed and sliced or ½ red bell pepper cut into pieces
1 small leek, diced or 3 scallions diced
Steam the vegetables until they are just fork tender, then remove immediately to a cold water bath to stop the cooking.
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
Just before serving, toss the vegetables with the dressing. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper if necessary. Makes four servings.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 79 calories, 2 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, 72 mg. sodium, 2 grams fiber. Excellent source of vitamins C and K.