From the first bite, everyone gets hooked on kohlrabi. The stems and leaves grow out of sides of the globes, giving the vegetable an odd, choppy exterior shape and exotic appearance. It looks like a root crop, but it grows above ground. The young leaves at the top are edible and extremely nutritious, like all greens, but this vegetable is most beloved for its crunchy interior. There are green, white and purple varieties, all with the same crisp white interior flesh that is similar to a water chestnut or a turnip but with a mild flavor that makes it an extremely versatile veggie.
Kohlrabi is the perfect diet food: one cup contains fewer than 40 calories but it packs a wholloping 5 grams of fiber! It's a good source of potassium and calcium, as well as vitamins A and C and folic acid. Sliced and served raw with dip, it will disappear quickly from appetizer plates. It's popping up in recipes from basic to exotic, for cooking in curries and soups and casseroles. The texture is satisfying as a crunchy raw snack, and it's mild enough to go well with most dressings and dips. Cooked, it acquires a soft texture and mixes wonderfully with butter or cream sauces, and nearly every seasoning. Kids love kohlrabi because of its sweet, delicate flavor.
Kohlrabi will store well in a root cellar or refrigerator for up to a month, but make sure to harvest or buy globes that are firm and fresh looking, with no yellowing on the leaves. The sweetest and most ideal size for harvest is 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
A cruciferous vegetable related to cabbage and cauliflower, kohlrabi is similar in flavor to broccoli stems or a very mild radish. Kohlrabi is simple to prepare: use a very sharp knife and peel carefully, as the outer skin can be tough and woody. Once the white globe is revealed, you can create all kinds of wonderful snacks, side dishes or entrees. Cut the raw flesh into round slices or long spears to munch on instead of starchy snacks. Coat cubes with olive oil and roast to get a caramelized glaze, bringing out the natural sugars. Mix julienned slices with raw carrots and mayonnaise for an inventive cole slaw. Steam diced kohlrabi and top with butter for a satisfying side dish.
Sliced kohlrabi is firm enough to make excellent pickle spears. The stems and leaves can be cooked or mixed raw into dishes along with the white interior.
When harvesting kohlrabi or buying bunches in the supermarket, choose firm, heavy bulbs with no blemishes on the outer surfaces. The larger the globes, the tougher the outer skin.
Gardeners love how hardy kohlrabi is. It prefers cooler temperatures and will produce a spring and fall crop in some growing regions. Seeds can be sown as soon as the soil can be worked, or they can be started indoors and transplanted. They require very little space, needing to be spaced only 6 inches apart. Kohlrabi grows quickly and can even tolerate some snow, for late fall harvests. This vegetable is relatively disease and insect resistant and it will thrive in most well-drained soils. Mix a good organic compost into the soil and use a general purpose fertilizer to promote quick growth. Water generously throughout the growing season to produce the most moist and mild-flavored vegetable. Clip the green leaves any time to cook like spinach.