The kohlrabi trials

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Visiting the local farmers' market, I'm discovering, is a great way to find new veggies to try out before devoting the time and space to growing them in the garden. Sure, I could make a trip to Whole Foods and sample some interesting vegetables from there, but the farmers' market is exceedingly more interesting to me, and I like supporting the local farmers directly. (To Whole Foods' credit, though, they are making an effort to buy from small farms, which is a good thing.)

At a recent market, curiosity nudged me to pick a pair of kohlrabies from one of the stands. Kohlrabi is one of those interesting looking vegetables that tends to leap off the page when I'm thumbing through gardening catalogs. It looks interesting, but does it taste any good?

Its name is derived from two German words: kohl for cabbage and rabi for turnip. From the looks of it, I thought it would taste like cabbage or broccoli. The sign next to it said it could be eaten raw or cooked, and I overheard someone saying it has the consistency of an apple. Sounded approachable to me.


At home, I peeled each kohlrabi and popped a small sliver in my mouth. It tasted very bland, almost like nothing. How could such an interesting looking vegetable taste so boring? I was determined to press on, though, and make something out of my kohlrabies.

I shredded them into small slivers to start a coleslaw. We had a large bag of Granny Smith apples in the kitchen, so I shredded one of those, too. A few snips of flat-leaf parsley added color. Then I mixed in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Still very bland.


I decided then to add a good spoonful of whole-grain dijon mustard. Now I was getting somewhere, but it still wasn't quite right. The slaw needed a bit of sweetness, I thought, to bring out the apples, so I added a few drizzles of honey. Yes! Good! Almost there. And then, for a hint of sharpness, I added a few hits of white wine vinegar. Perfect!

I ended up with a light, cool, delicious slaw -- a little bit sweet, a little bit savory. I thought it was great, but the true test, I knew, would come from Michael. He devoured it. In fact, he liked it so much that at the end of the meal he said, "we can definitely buy kohlrabi again." Success!


The kohlrabi reminded me of jicama. It seemed to have the chameleon-like property of taking on the flavor of whatever it's combined with -- whether savory or sweet. I was so emboldened by the success of my slaw that I returned to the market the following week and bought a purple kohlrabi. That one tasted considerably more "cabbage-y," though, and so that left a hole in my theory that any kohlrabi could be paired with sweet ingredients. More testing is needed.


With the purple kohlrabi I set out again to make a slaw, but in the process, I had a minor accident with the V-Slicer. I have the occasion here to mention Band-Aids again, but I will spare you the details. Let's just say, I didn't finish making that salad, and I am lucky to still have a thumb with which to hit the space bar on the keyboard. Ouch!!

That's the end of the kohlrabi trials, at least for now.

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Thank you to Alanna at A Veggie Venture, for providing the farmers' market logo. It's available to anyone who's blogging about their farmers' market finds.

19 Comments:

Blogger Marie (FKA Piana Nanna) said...

Youre' very adventurous with your vegetables. I've never tried kohlrabi because I didn't have a clue what to do with it. I'll have to try some slaw your way. Thanks for the idea.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Ed Bruske said...

love kohlrabi. deserves more attention, good for you

7:56 AM  
Blogger Multiveg said...

Kohlrabi is quite a pretty vegetable to look at. Some can grow rather huge, but most are best harvested at the size of a golf (or is it tennis) ball.
Its even possible to dry kohlrabi in a food dehydrator, though haven't tried that yet.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Gardenista said...

Hmm. I'd hardly ever heard of a kohlrabi, forget cooking with one. Interesting post.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Muum said...

love the slaw idea! My mother used to grow it and eat it sliced. It has never been a fave of mine, but maybe I'll try the slaw idea. love jicama, though. thanks for sharing your ideas.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Curtis said...

That sounds great. You are very inventive with food. I have always looked at kohlrabi and wanted to try it, but didn't know how to make something with it.Your slaw sounds great.

8:42 PM  
Blogger kate said...

I hope your thumb is doing okay ...my mum's friend used to grow kohlrabi and I remember eating it raw and liking its crunchiness... I suppose, as a child, blandness was okay. The salad sounds delicious!

1:23 AM  
Blogger Alanna said...

Ah yes, the V(egetable) Slicer should really be re-named the F(inger) Slicer. When kohlrabi is quite juicy, I just peel and slice, raw, like an apple. To me, then it's got lots of flavor on its own.

PS Many thanks for showing off the farmers market icon - it's fun to see 'Blush' travel the world!

8:49 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Having the garden has definitely made me more adventurous about trying new vegetables. Whenever I look at heirloom seed catalogs, I realize there are many vegetables/fruits/grains I've never tasted. I'll try anything at least once.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Tyra in Vaxholm said...

Thank you...mmm..delicious, it's going to be a Coleslaw weekend.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous vegmonkey said...

Hi, thanks for the blog comment. They were indeed very, very tasty. Our first courgette is slowly appearing in this horrid weather we are having. Have noted your fritter recipe...am certainly gonna give it a try when we get a glut! Mind if we swap blogroll links?

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Soilman said...

I get the urge to try new things, too. Usually regret it. Last year I grew salsify and scorzonera. Should have been suspicious when they were absurdly easy to grow. They tasted of absolutely nothing. Honestly. I've never eaten such bland and boring carbohydrate in my life. Felt the same way about Kohl rabi, must admit. Perhaps I'll give it another go in your recipe.

2:55 AM  
Blogger Anita said...

Oh, I am quite surprised that you did not know Kohlrabi before! And how funny that you in the US use our German word for it!

My hubby and me LOVE kohlrabi and we grow it in the garden, too! But unfortunately, this year, they are not growing well - due to the strange weather, I guess (Heat in April and May and lots of rain in June and July).

Happy gardening!

11:58 AM  
Blogger Robin (Bumblebee) said...

I like to think I'm pretty adventurous with the veggies, but have never tried kohlrabi. I might just give it a try. Now, whether the men in my house eat it...

--Robin (Bumblebee)

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

Yum! Kohrabi is one of my favorites but you really need to grow it yourself to appreciate it's flavor, it's one of those you need to eat the minute you get into the house.

5:01 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

I would like to know what you make with kohlrabi in Germany, Anita. Do you have a recipe you'd be willing to share?

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Lori V. said...

Hi, Christa! I just found your blog... lovin' it! I, too, have always shied from kohlrabi b/c I had no clue what to do with it... I'm not adventurous AT ALL with veggies, so having someone else's reviews first is a big plus.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Where fibers meet mud said...

Your Kohlrabi story is a hoot, I always fry it or bake it with garlic and onions, parsley and salt and voila! Now I will try it in a salad - thanks!

7:45 AM  
Blogger Susanne said...

I am a German ex-pat as well, and while you didn't ask me, my mom used to cook it. If I recall correctly, it was pretty plain. Dice some onions, sauté them, add the chopped kohlrabi and cook until soft. She usually thickened it a little with flour/cornstarch but only used salt and pepper as spices - maybe nutmeg, not sure.
It came as the "veggie side" next to you choice of meat and potato.
I always liked it raw too until my mom chased me out of the kitchen.
I get a kick out of it here in the stores - I have yet to find a checkout person who doesn't have to ask what it is and look it up.

10:57 AM  

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