I can hear you now… what the heck is THAT, and have you seen a doctor?
(creativecommons photo by flickr user flit)
Kohlrabi is a member of the Brassica Oleracea family, which includes cabbages, broccoli and brussels sprouts. It looks a lot like a turnip, and in part that is how it got it’s name (German Turnip). My grandma used to grow it in her garden, but for years I never saw it except in “international” farmer’s markets, and usually the cashiers had no idea what it was. More recently, it has popped up occasionally in my regular grocery store, and I actually saw some seedlings for sale at my local nursery last week. Maybe kohlrabi is making a comeback? I tried to grow some from seed last year, but something (stares at cat) ate the tops. This year, I bought seedlings instead.
So why should you have it in your garden? For starters, its pretty easy to grow (stares at cat). They are deliciously crisp, sort of like an apple, with a slightly sweet flavor more like broccoli than a turnip. Kohlrabi is also quite high in nutrition. For instance, one small bulb contains approximately 20 calories, with 2.5 grams of fiber, 240 grams of potassium, 25 IU of vitamin A, 40ish mg of vitamin C, 11ish mcg of folic acid and 17ish mg of calcium.
(creative commons photo by flickr user kthread)
Ok, so what do you do with it?
Well, my favorite way to eat it is raw. The smaller bulbs can be eaten whole, but if you get larger ones you will want to peel off the outer layer as it gets tough and fibrous. A favorite childhood snack was a bulb fresh from my Grandma’s garden, sliced and topped with a little bit of cream cheese. It was crunchy, refreshing and delicious! It also works well shredded into a slaw, with a little broccoli rabe and red cabbage.
You can also cook with it. The easiest thing to do is cube it and sautee it with some butter and spices as you might with a carrot.
(creative commons photo by flickr user sweetbeetandgreenbean, who has a nice recipe if you click that link)
If you want something fancier, over on EatDrinkBetter, Jennie has a recipe for kohlrabi and squash empanadas that I suspect I’ll have to try this summer:
(her photo, not mine)
If you like spicy, head over to Aayi’s Recipes for a drool-worthy spicy Kohlrabi curry (Navalkolu).
Or, try one of my favorite North Indian recipes: Ganth Gobhi. The best recipe I’ve found is here in Ammalu’s Kitchen.
Kohlrabi is a cool weather crop, so now is the perfect time to plant it. You’ll harvest your bulbs before the real heat of summer sets in. Plant it in full sun, in well-drained soil. Kohlrabi loves to be planted near beets, but doesn’t particularly care for peppers.