About Kohlrabi

June 3, 2007

About Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea Gongylodes Group) is a stout cultivar of the cabbage. The name comes from the German Kohl (“cabbage”) plus Rabi (“turnip”), because the swollen stem resembles the latter. Its origin in nature is the same as that of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts: they are all bred from, and the same species as, the wild mustard plant. It was apparently developed in northern Europe shortly before the 16th century. The first description of kohlrabi was by a European botanist in 1554. By the end of the 16th century it was known in Germany, England, Italy (where the Romans called it “Pompeii cabbage”), Spain, Tripoli and the eastern Mediterranean. It is said to have been first grown on a field scale in Ireland in 1734 and in England in 1837. In the United States, records of its use go back to 1806.

It’s a distinctive-looking vegetable with a swollen, nearly spherical, Sputnik-like shape, pale green and purple-tinged, marked by points where the leaf stems were attached.

Recently rediscovered by many chefs, it has gained an enthusiastic new following and is being paired with exotic flavors in many innovative dishes.

The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter. The young stems in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet.

Storage Tips

Store kohlrabi, refrigerated and wrapped in plastic, for up to a week.

Simply rinse under cool running water.

Cooking Tips

Kohlrabi should be peeled to remove the fibrous layer just under the skin. It can be peeled before or after cooking.

Peel kohlrabi, cut it into 1/4” slices or sticks and sauté in butter or olive oil, or boil and mash like potatoes.

The leaves of the kohlrabi can be eaten but must be cooked. They have a flavor similar to kale. But it is the kohlrabi bulb that kohlrabi is really grown for. The bulb can be eaten either raw or cooked. It can be prepared as crudités, grated, used in gratins, soups, stews or purées, sautéed or steamed.

Peel the bulbs and grate them raw to add to to salads or slaws.  If not served raw, it can be sautéed or steamed like turnips.  Cut it into 1/4” slices or sticks, and sauté in butter or olive oil, or boil and mash like potatoes.  It can also be added to soups, stews or purées.

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