When people first see or taste kohlrabi, they commonly react by asking, “What is that?” Sometimes described as octopus-like or as a creature from outer space, kohlrabi has trailing tendrils protruding from a pale-green, softball-sized globe.
Don’t let the odd appearance turn you off. Kohlrabi is simply a misunderstood member of the cabbage family. Kohl means cabbage in German, and rabi comes from the species name Brassica rapa. Kohlrabi has a mild taste, often described as a cross between a cabbage and a turnip or a radish. The flesh is firm and crisp, similar in texture to a turnip’s. Unlike cabbage, kohlrabi maintains its firmness and doesn’t get sulfurous when cooked.
Nutrition Profile. A good source of fiber, this homely vegetable is high in vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamins B2 and B3.
Where and When to Buy. Kohlrabi can be found in larger grocery or health food stores and at farmers’ markets starting in late fall. Some Asian markets now carry the vegetable year-round. (Often the tendrils are removed in Asian markets.) Although certain varieties of kohlrabi can grow quite large, look for the smaller, baseball- to softball-sized ones that have a less-pronounced flavor. Kohlrabi should be firm and free of blemishes and pale-green in color or with some purple skin, depending on the variety.
Suggested Uses. In Germany and throughout Eastern Europe, and especially in Asia and India, kohlrabi is a staple vegetable that is eaten raw, juiced, used in stews and curries and even stuffed. The little green leaves on the tendrils can be eaten and prepared like any other greens. The tendrils are usually discarded. Peeling away the pale-green outer layer on the globe reveals a white flesh that can be eaten raw, grated for salads, cut into sticks for dipping or sliced thin for crudités. You can add diced kohlrabi to soups and stews, or boil and mash this vegetable on its own or mixed with potatoes or turnips. Try it in this month’s Recipe for Health.
Sarah Kruse is a freelance writer and certified natural chef. She is a guest blogger at www.therapeuticchef.com.
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