By Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
”Kohlrabi, once the favored vegetable of European nobles and peasants alike, has fallen off the veggie pop charts.” Vegetarians in Paradise
It was innocent enough. I bought these cute little veggie starts that were purple. I like purple, actually I love purple. Off I tramped to the garden and planted them. As I was planting them, thinking they were going to be luscious cabbages someday, I took a look at the tag. Kohlrabi! What?? Fast forward a few months and I have little purple hot air balloons popping up all over the garden. Well,….. okay, time to learn about kohlrabi.
Kohlrabi actually is a very interesting and striking looking vegetable that I’m enjoying getting acquainted with. In Kashmir, it is the number one vegetable consumed, being on the menu many times a week. Its name means “turnip cabbage” in German, which is the perfect way to describe it. It is a tuberous bulb that looks like a balloon, prettier than a turnip and related to the cabbage, and grows on top of the earth. The smaller bulbs are sweeter and more tender than the woody bigger brothers.
The leaves as well as the bulb are down right delicious and can be eaten raw or cooked. I found that the leaves are sweeter than kale or chard and can be used in any recipe that they are. The taste of the raw bulb, after you peel off the tough purple skin, (which I did try to eat but wasn’t very successful) is clean, crisp and sweet. They are perfect to grate into salads and slaws or just eat plain with a wee bit of salt.
When the bulb is cooked it has a mild nutty cabbage flavor that adapts well to just about any recipe. Polar opposite cuisines, from Germany to India use this odd veggie in many dishes. Kohlrabi is a powerhouse nutritionally as well, loaded with vitamin C, potassium, calcium and fiber. It also surprisingly boasts omega 3s in abundance.
So, let’s see, it is delicious, easy to eat, adapts well to any dish, loaded with good nutrition, stores in the fridge for months and effortless to grow. Why have I never been introduced before now?? I suppose it is my own fault. I have seen it here and there but not given it any curiosity, like every other American. It seems that even though kohlrabi was once favored by European royalty it has never taken off here in the states. Why? No one knows.
I recommend breaking out of the carrot mindset and have yourself a little get acquainted party with kohlrabi if you haven’t met yet. Kohlrabi can be found at farmers markets, organic grocers and in your neighbor’s gardens. You won’t regret the meeting. In fact you could end up having a very good relationship.
Here are a few way to enjoy this delicious oddity. The first recipe you need to serve right away or the chips get a little soggy, but it is soooo good!
4 nice fat kohlrabi bulbs peeled
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 to 2 cloves of garlic pressed
A squeeze of hot sauce (optional)
1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and then peel the kohlrabi. Cut those nice fat bulbs into ¼ inch slices, kinda like a potato chip. Combine the olive oil, garlic, hot sauce and pepper in a bowl and then toss the kohlrabi slices in the mix. Arrange them in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally so they don’t feel neglected. Remove them from the oven and sprinkle them the parmesan cheese and wee bit of salt then tuck back in the oven for about 5 minutes till the cheese melts. Serve hot and steaming.
Kohlrabi and Carrot salad
Adapted from a recipe by Ivy Manning
2 large kohlrabi blubs, peeled and julienned
2 or 3 large carrots, julienned or grated
1 tsp of fennel seeds
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
½ teaspoon of salt
A few cranks of black pepper or
½ teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of salad greens
Toast the fennel seeds in a small dry pan over medium heat till they are fragrant and begin to lightly brown. Place fennel into a mortar and pestle and crack the seeds into a powder, or use a handy dandy spice grinder. OR do nothing and throw them in the salad whole, which works. Combine the fennel, vinegar, oils, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk up into a nice combo. Pour the oil mix over your kohlrabi and carrots and toss them till well acquainted. Plate the greens on four small plates and arrange the kohlrabi mix over the greens and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Enjoy your new friend.