Eat this strange vegetable raw and cooked

May 21, 2008

I’ve always had a soft spot for funny-looking vegetables, whether mutated (forked carrots, bell peppers with piggyback twins) or quirky by default (gnarly celery root). So, naturally, I was smitten with kohlrabi from the start.

Its exotic looks can be intimidating, to be sure. A member of the cabbage family, kohlrabi is prized for its bulbous stalk, which swells to peculiar proportions above ground, sprouting unwieldy, collard-like greens.

Purple kohlrabi at the market.

But its appearance belies its nature; pared down to its bulb, kohlrabi is remarkably low-maintenance and adaptable. Raw, it is crisp, sweet, and clean, strikingly reminiscent of raw broccoli stalks. Cooked, it touts a mild, nutty, cabbage-like flavor that adapts beautifully to cooking styles as polar as Indian and German, two cuisines in which kohlrabi has long been beloved (kohlrabi translates to “cabbage-turnip” in German).

During spring, when the markets are flooded with sweet, tender vegetables, I love to serve kohlrabi raw, shaved into a slaw or diced into a chopped salad. Fennel, radishes, and sweet turnips make for particularly flattering company, and a simple lemon-dill vinaigrette pulls everything together with a welcome tinge of acidity. But Kohlrabi Salad with Pea Shoots may be my new favorite; tossed with pea shoots and drizzled with sesame dressing, it accentuates the sweet, mellow crispness of kohlrabi I adore.

And don’t forget the greens. With a sturdy texture and a sweet flavor reminiscent of kale, they’re half the point. I like to sauté them simply with garlic, olive oil, and red chile, but Kohlrabi Greens with Toasted Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce is equally loveable and a bit less predictable, which, when I think about it, sounds just about right.

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1. by Lori on Aug 15, 2009 at 8:17 AM PDT

Thank you! I have just been persuaded to try this vegi that I saw in the farmers market today.

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