The most highly questioned vegetable at the 2009 Point Reyes Farmers market was kohlrabi. Evocative of Lady GaGa (insert Ziggy Stardust if you are over 50) – it is visually confusing, yet utterly fascinating. Kohlrabi once topped the charts with European royalty as a favorite vegetable. My VIP friends (Vegetarians in Paradise ) predict a hearty comeback for this neglected member of the brassica oleracea family, more commonly called the cabbage family. FYI – bulbous base grows above ground along with the greens.
Armed with some great pointers from Sandy & Dennis Dierks at Paradise Valley Produce, I brought two home with me and had quite the Saturday evening. I cut the greens off the base and tasted the stem. It had a gentle fresh broccoli taste with a hint of a horseradish bite. I set the greens aside and peeled the skin off the kohlrabi base. Mine were about the size of large apples and the outer layer of skin that needed peeling was about ¼ inch thick. According to Dennis skin thickness varies with the size of the bulb. The inside was similar to jicama in texture. I sliced half of one of them to serve raw (sweeter and more subtle than the stem) – I diced the other half and sautéed it with a bit of McEvoy olive oil, sliced elephant garlic and a bit of kosher salt – amazing. The other kohlrabi I also did two ways – The first half I boiled (along with some elephant garlic) and mashed them with olive oil and butter, this tasted great, but the texture was a little mushy. I sliced the other half and prepared it like my scalloped potatoes – it was delicious – a schosh too moist for me – so adjust accordingly. Here is a recipe that did work for me click on kohlrabi gratin! One tip I heard regarding moisture is to very lightly salt slice and let them sit on a paper towel for a bit before use in something like a gratin.
The greens were great! I stripped the greens from the stems and julienned. I finely chopped the stems and sautéed them first with a bit of diced bulb and some minced elephant garlic – I added the greens (similar in thickness to collards) to the sautéed mixture and cooked about 15 more minutes adding water as they cooked down. I removed half of the pan and served “southern style” with a dash of hot pepper vinegar – y’all it was good! I took the other half and added a dash of agave nectar and a star anise and let it simmer a bit more – lovely.
With just a little effort I found kohlrabi easy to work with and amazingly versatile. I can’t wait to get more and work with it primarily raw this week. I understand the greens also work well in salads and that you can make a great kimchi. I’m thinking of using raw rounds as the base for canapés the way I might use jicama. I think it would work really well with a creamy cheese like a Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam!