Few vegetables are, arguably, weirder looking than the kohlrabi. A pale-green roundish bulb with numerous odd, leafy “tentacles” emanating from it gives the impression of some outer-space alien from a low-budget early 1960s sci-fi film. But behind that bizarre form is a multitalented plant with a flavor like peeled broccoli stems, at home in preparations raw, steamed, or fully cooked. This is a vegetable with an immense amount of potential—it just needs a better PR campaign.
My great-aunt, a German immigrant, served as my surrogate grandmother (mine were both living across the pond in Europe) and she, formerly a cook for some minor royalty in southern Germany, grew kohlrabi in her magnificent garden. Her table was the only place I’d ever see kohlrabi—not at the homes of friends or farm stands and certainly not at supermarkets. But I just LOVED her kohlrabi. She cooked it with butter and ground it into a coarse purée, seasoning the mixture with salt and pepper. Interestingly, she would cook some of the leaves as well, leaving the dish speckled with dark green. After her death, I thought I would never see kohlrabi again.
Then I moved to the Midwest. Not only did I find kohlrabi at my local farmers market, I actually saw it at the SUPERMARKET. Yes, I would occasionally find kohlrabi at my local Meijer, much to my delight. It was like a reunion of long-lost lovers. I attribute this slight popularity to a substantial proportion of the Midwestern population having German ancestry (kohlrabi is quite common in Germany and means “turnip cabbage” in German).
That said, many Flyoverians might encounter the otherworldly kohlrabi and be confused, perhaps even taken aback. Despite being more common in these Midwestern parts than it ever was back East, the kohlrabi is not yet a part of everyone’s “eat more vegetables” repertoire. And that is just too bad. No need to be frightened, children—the kohlrabi won’t bite.
But what to do with it? Perhaps the simplest preparation is to eat it raw. Start with small bulbs (but if you can only find larger ones, by all means buy them). Remove the myriad stems, but don’t discard the greens—their taste is reminiscent of kale and can be treated similarly. Peel your kohlrabi bulb. Cut the bulb in half and if you find it somewhat woody in the center (as may be the case with large bulbs, depending on the kohlrabi variety), simply cut that part away. Slice the kohlrabi into semicircular pieces and serve as you would any raw vegetable. It’s especially nice with dips and, if julienned, makes a nice addition to salads.
Kohlrabi can also be steamed, then lightly buttered and seasoned with salt and pepper. Or simply dress your steamed kohlrabi with a vinaigrette.
Click here for a recipe for creamed kohlrabi, which utilizes some of the leaves as well as the bulb.