The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Holy Kohlrabi, Batman!

July 16th, 2009 · 14 Comments · Posted in garden, Recipes

Today's tip: grow more kohlrabi

Today's tip: grow more kohlrabi

Quick, what would you say is the most underrated vegetable in the garden?

There is only one correct answer: kohlrabi.

Kohlrabi is in the brassica family along with broccoli, cabbage, turnips, Brussels sprouts and all the other cruciferous vegetables that we love. You hardly ever see anything written about it, and rarely does it make an appearance at the supermarket. That’s a shame, because to our mind, it is not only exceedingly delicious, with a flavor somewhere between broccoli and cauliflower, but its big, blueish-green leaves make a beautiful display in the garden. This year we planted a purple variety, which is even prettier.

Why don’t people eat more kohlrabi? Maybe because it looks so funny. The edible part is really just a big, swollen stem that looks something like a baby sputnik with alternating stems growing out of it. That may just be a little too intimidating for many home cooks. But you shouldn’t be deterred. Once you remove the stems and leaves, just peel off the skin and proceed to cook.

I like to cut the kohlrabi into large matchsticks and steam them until just tender. Then I dress them with olive oil and season with salt. That’s all it takes. You could add a grating of Romano cheese, but the kohlrabi presented in its simplest form is already exquisite. You don’t need to mess with it.

Our biggest issue with kohlrabi is that we only have two plants this year. What were we thinking? That’s a shame, because our unusually cool spring was about as good as it gets for growing kohlrabi. We are making plans to plant much more in the fall. Consider starting seeds 12 to 14 weeks before the first average frost date.

Now that I think about it, kohlrabi would also be a fine candidate for a cheesy gratin or even a souffle. Do you have a favorite way of preparing kohlrabi you’d like to share with us kohlrabi lovers?

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  • AT22

    I miss kohlrabi. I’ve never even had it cooked – just raw straight from the garden. Maybe I’ll plant some this fall!

  • fastweedpuller

    I love the stuff too! You know, I had never heard of it as a Chicagoan but, when in Minnesota, they’re kookoo for kohlrabi, so I grew it a lot up there. My favorite way of cooking it is just like AT22: I don’t! I just grate it for a salad or I chop it up for dipping, like jicama. And it’s another crop I don’t bother planting until the end of July (like fennel and turnips) because I think it gets too hard and pithy if sown in the spring.

  • Amelia

    I am one of those people intimidated by kohlrabi! But you make it sound easy. Maybe I’ll plant some for the fall. I need a new brassica since my Chinese broccoli turned out rather poorly.

  • espringf

    I like it raw. If you’re eating any starches, try it in a cold salad of fresh corn kernels, black or edamame beans, and a cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

    It’s also a nice stand-in for jicama or water chestnuts.

  • Ed Bruske

    AT, this is a revelation: kohlrabi raw. Everyone else seems to be in the know. I must have missed that memo.

    El, how about them Minnesotans. They’re also crazy for rutabaga. And lutefisk. My kind of folks. So far, we haven’t had a problem with pithy kohlrabi. But I’m definitely looking forward to a bigger fall planting.

    Amelia, the kohlrabi was very easy–as easy as broccoli. It just sits there and, well, swells. Then you pull it up. What could be simpler?

    E, I think you captured our feeling that kohlrabi is a textural thing as well as a flavor, like edamame or jicama or water chestnuts. What great suggestions…..

  • Pattie

    Ed: You just made me laugh out loud with “it just sits there and swells.” 🙂

    And, by the way, I don’t even peel the thing.

  • Ed Bruske

    Pattie: Raw? Not peeled? My head is spinning. I’ve gotten an entirely new perspective on kohlrabi.

  • Pattie

    Shoot, you made me laugh out loud again.

  • AmyB

    I love growing kohlrabi! Also good for cole (“kohl”) slaw! My vegetarian friends steam and cook the greens (from the stalks), too. I prefer the little knob.

  • foodperson

    Yes, kohlrabi slaw! I do like it cooked, though. I cut it julienne (only peeled if its so big that it’s gotten a little woody) and cook it with garlic and red pepper flakes and olive oil then toss with some hot medium-sized pasta such as penne. But for the nonpasta crowd, you could eat it straight or mix with some white beans. Yum!

  • Ed Bruske

    Janet, it’s so good to know you are a fellow kohrabi person. But now I’m perplexed that I’m just hearing about kohlrabi slaw. And kohlrabi with pasta? There’s a revelation. I’m still bent on the kohlrabi gratin. Did you notice the kohlrabi in the photo with the farmed salmon post? That’s the way we usually make it: cut into matchsticks and steamed, then dressed with butter or olive oil, salt and pepper. Love the texture.

  • Ed Bruske

    Amy, that’s the first I’ve heard of eating the stalks. Something else to add to our pot of greens, I guess.

  • roz

    My dad had Kohlrabi in the garden when I was young and I remember eating it unpeeled, raw, but cut into thick slices and salted… I will have to ask him if thats REALLY what we did!
    I have about 20 plants in my garden and I’m itching to start eating them…

  • roz

    mmm yes. I read the article, became a member, ran outside and grabbed a fresh Kohl… I was right, peeled, raw, sliced, lightly salted (or to taste). DELISH!