Kohlrabi

Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes

USDA nutritional info

Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family, Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae). It originated in Europe at least 500 years ago. The name kohlrabi translates (from German and Latin roots) to “cabbage turnip.” Both the leaves and the “bulb” (technically, not a bulb but a swollen stem) are eaten.

Storage: Store whole kohlrabis in plastic in the refrigerator if you’re planning to use them within a day or two. If you think it will be longer than that (or if you’re not sure, but want to err on the side of caution), trim the leaves from the bulb, and the stems from the leaves. This helps prevent moisture loss, the quickest route to vegetable floppiness. Store both leaves and bulb in the refrigerator in plastic bags. You can stick a damp paper towel in the bag with the leaves if you think it might be several days before you’ll use them. Don’t wash kohlrabi until you’re ready to use it.

Prep: Trim leaves from bulb if you haven’t yet. Wash all parts in cool water, paying attention to the bottom of the bulb, which is where the stem meets the soil when the kohlrabi is growing. Cut the top and bottom from the bulb, and peel it. For the most flavor you can cook kohlrabi bulbs unpeeled and peel and cut them up later (this is when it’s really important that you washed the butt ends well). Slice into disks or matchsticks, or chop into chunks.

Remove ribs from leaves by folding each leaf and tearing the flesh from the rib. Cut leaves into strips or large pieces. They’ll cook down some, so your pieces will wind up smaller than they began, but not as much as some more delicate greens like spinach do, so don’t leave them too big.

Preserving: To freeze kohlrabi, wash. peel, and either leave whole or cut into 1/2″ cubes. Blanch in boiling water, 3 minutes for whole or 1 minute for cubes; plunge into ice bath. Drain. Pack into freezer-safe containers or zip-top freezer bags, seal and freeze. I’ve not yet tried it but I’ve heard that kohlrabi’s texture after this is nothing spectacular. Another, perhaps better way to freeze it would be to follow the above directions but purée the kohlrabi before packing. Leave 1/2″ of headroom, seal and freeze.

You can dry kohlrabi leaves (wash and de-rib them first, then use a food dehydrator or the oven set to around 200°F) and crumble them into a jar. Then later when you’re making soup, casserole, or meatloaf, you can throw some in for a little color and added nutrients. We do it all the time and Mary (our pickiest eater) never notices.

Kohlrabi bulbs can be substituted for cucumbers in pickling recipes. You can also grate kohlrabi and add it when you make sauerkraut. I’ve never tried it but I suspect it will make your kraut milder, as its flavor is not as strong as that of cabbage.

Recipes:

Use kohlrabi leaves in an kale or collard green recipe. Kohlrabi bulbs are a good addition to a raw veggie platter with dip. They are also one of those disappearing vegetables that can be cooked, then puréed and added to mashed potatoes (to lighten) or soup (to thicken).

Grate kohlrabi bulbs and sauté them with garlic in butter, or make slices and braise them in a tasty broth.

Kohlrabi with Horseradish

  • Several kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
  • A few tablespoons of sour cream
  • Prepared horseradish
  • Chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper

Slice the kohlrabi into strips and steam until tender. Remove to a bowl and toss with remaining ingredients. Be judicious with the horseradish, dill, salt, and pepper, then add more to taste.

Sources: Angelic Organics: http://www.angelicorganics.com/Vegetables/vegetablescontent.php?contentfile=vegstorage; Encyclopedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/; Janet Green, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan: Putting Food By, 4th ed.; Straight From the Farm: http://straightfromthefarm.net/2007/06/18/the-411-on-kohlrabi-storage/; Deborah Madison: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone ; Marian Morash: The Victory Garden Cookbook.

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