All But Forgotten: An Ode to Kohlrabi

mature kohlrabi in the garden

The 20th-century Nobel-prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, wrote a series of Odes about vegetables, including “Oda al tomate“, “Oda la alcachofa“, “Oda a la cebolla“, and “Oda al maíz” (to the tomato, artichoke, onion, and corn). But he didn’t write one about kohlrabi. What a shame. It would have been perfect for today’s blog. And it deserves an ode.

I grew up eating the kohlrabi which we planted and picked in our big garden in Fort Collins, Colorado. Now I wish I could ask my mother how she knew about it.

Though kohlrabi was grown throughout Europe in the late 1500’s, it seems that today kohlrabi has been all but forgotten.

I’ve recently introduced it to at least a half dozen friends, all of whom are smitten with it.  It’s surprising to me how many folks have never experienced kohlrabi’s raw, slightly sweet, crispy, better-than-radish and much-better-than-turnip taste.  All you have to do is peel it and slice it and it’s ready to devour – or use it to dip into any dip of your choice. We’re especially fond of kohlrabi dipped into Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Carrot Ginger Dip.

Yotam Ottolenghi in his cookbook Jerusalem has this amusing description:

Kohlrabi is a weird vegetable…it is weird because of its look [and] because people in the West, Germany excepted, have no clue what to do with it. Perhaps because of its oddity and eccentricity, or maybe because it is so easy to grow and tastes so fresh, people in Israel love it.

Andrea Nguyen, from VietworldKitchen.com., wrote a post about “su hao”, which is kohlrabi in Vietnamese. She was looking for suggestions on recipes using it and got the following comment on her blog:

I love Kohlrabi! Here in Germany, it’s one of the most common vegetables. We just cook it slowly with some butter or in a roux with milk, with some bacon bits added. You can even slice it, coat it with breadcrumbs (and parmigiano) and fry it like a schnitzel. I also like it thai-style, with a bit of green curry paste and coconut milk.

Andrea posted this recipe of hers for Vietnamese-style kohlrobi – “su-hao-xao-toi”, kohlrabi stir-fried with garlic and egg.

I can’t imagine anyone not liking kohlrabi’s mild taste, but Andy has the solution for any nay-sayer. “Eat it!” That’s also what he yells at our cat, Ono, on a daily basis. See today’s special Andy’s Corner (yes, they’re ALL special! :).

Like kohlrabi, Ono’s stuffed toys are all but forgotten – even after she drug them out of the house.

It’s shocking how many delicious and easily-grown vegetables never make it into our gardens or onto our plates. If you’re from the Sonoma area, you’re probably familiar with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have a shop in Petaluma and they have an online site for mail order. You’ve got to check out the array of unusual seeds they carry. My order went in today.

I just read in our local Press Democrat newspaper about two women in Sebastopol who are planting and selling unusual German and Asian vegetables. They call themselves Radical Family Farms, and their vegetable photos alone are enough to make you want to start experimenting in your garden and in your kitchen. You could even buy Sara Deseran’s 2001 Asian Vegetables cookbook and choose to plant new-to-you veggies according to the recipes that sound d-lish. Get it here while you can! (shameless promotion of our daughter.) 🙂

by Sara Deseran

When you’re lucky enough to find kohlrabi at your market – or get it delivered in your fresh-from-the-farm box, remember to peel it (removing the stems and bottom and top with a knife and then peeling with a vegetable peeler works best for me). The bottom will be tough and will definitely require a little effort to cut it off. I just move my knife up until I begin to find the tender spot and make the cut there. If you’ve got leaves included, they’re edible too – and can be cooked and served like spinach.

Is kohlrabi good for us? Well, the Harvard Health blog states it is a “cruciferous vegetable. These include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, and turnips. They are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals including indoles, thiocyanates, and nitriles, which may prevent against some types of cancer.” I’m impressed!

And here are a couple of my favorite recipes. Nope, I JUST CAN’T DO IT. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend any kohlrabi recipe. Sure, you can be adventurous and boil it, roast it, fry it, julienne it for a slaw, dice it for a salad, but trust me – you’ll enjoy kohlrabi’s taste and crunch most if it’s just sliced and served. Maybe with a dip – but even that isn’t necessary. It’s the perfect simple, quick, non-fattening, healthy, yummy snacking food. And it’s way too good to be forgotten (or even obfuscated – big word! – in a recipe with other more-domineering ingredients!).

Kohlrabi

As Andy’s Corner recommends today: Just EAT IT!  No recipe needed or wanted.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

3 Comments

  1. David Ewing says:

    Kohlrabi is tasty but ordinarily a bit too spendy for us Scots. I often include a poor boy’s version in my salads by peeling broccoli stems and then slicing or julienning them. Of course this is fiddly and time consuming, but I don’t mind because one of my main motivations for cooking is to avoid useful work. I’m willing to bet you couldn’t distinguish this from Kohlrabi in a blind taste test.

    Like

    • theRaggedys says:

      Andy here: thanks for the thrifty tip about using peeled broccoli stems as a substitute for kohlrabi in salads. If you want to splurge a bit I found a recipe that calls for both broccoli and kohlrabi on a web site called “Cooking God’s Way.” It must be a heavenly salad. I can send you the URL if you are interested.

      Like

      • David Ewing says:

        Of course I’m interested. And as a thrifty guy, I’d really like to know how He manages that thing with the fish, if you have any information about that.

        Like

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