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Waiter, There’s a Kohlrabi In My Soup!

May 6th, 2011 - By Therese Madden

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Markets are full of foods we’ve never heard of and may have wondered what they taste like. The humble kohlrabi takes the spotlight.


Photo by Flicker user SummerTomato / CC BY-NC 2.0

First, here’s a simple question: what is kohlrabi? That’s K-O-H-L-R-A-B-I, kohlrabi. No clue? You’re not alone.

“Kohlrabi, is it like broccoli rabe?”
“I think it’s a rock band of some sort.”
“I think I don’t know what it is, I don’t know…”

Alright, kohlrabi is a vegetable. It’s in the cabbage family. Kohl being the german word for cabbage. Think about it? coleslaw, cauliflower, it’s been around for hundreds of years, although it’s often described as other worldly:

“It’s really pretty it has that purple and white stripe, and I was like, ‘what is that?’ And they were like, oh, it’s kohlrabi.”
“It’s green and it looks like a beet but green and it has leaves that are growing out of the side, it looks sort of alien.”

A kohlrabi up close.

It comes in purple, green or white. This orb-like vegetable is a good source of potassium, and vitamins B6 and C. And the taste? “The flavor is awesome, it has a little bit of a mustard bite to it,” Tom Murtha is a farmer from Blooming Glen Farm in Bucks County Pennsylvania. He says, “you can cut it up into little matchsticks and use as a dip sort of thing, or you can grate it onto salads which is nice. An old-time neighbor of ours gave us a kohlrabi slaw recipe, and we also make fritters with it. Grate it, squeeze water with egg, cilantro, scallion, just like you would a potato fritter, right in the pan.”

Kohlrabi’s a hearty vegetable that grows in the spring and the fall. The best place to find it is a farm stand or market. But you better find it quickly cause here’s what influential New York Times food writer and author Mark Bittman has to say, “it is my new, I would hardly say passion because how much are you going to eat, really. But these vegetables that are always lingering in the background and then suddenly you find ‘WOW!’ they’re fabulous, so kohlrabi is one of those.”

Bittman’s new appreciation for kohlrabi began last year in Austria. It was part of a breakfast spread, served raw with a little salt. He’s since found a way to dress kohlrabi up for the dinner table. “Well, the most sophisticated kohlrabi presentation that I know is thin sliced, salted, rinsed, drizzled with olive oil, lemon, maybe a little parsley, kohlrabi salad.”

Oh and did I mention there’s a nice crunch?

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Photo by Flicker user Chiot's Run / CC BY-NC 2.0

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