Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

July 16, 2010

Ah, Kohlrabi... the sputnik of the garden!

It's funny, that's how I first heard kohlrabi described, as resembling sputnik! I had to look it up to find out exactly what sputnik looked like.Guess what? good description don't you think?

The edible part of the kohlrabi, besides the leaves that is (yes those are edible too. but I'll get to that.) is not a root or a bulb as many would think. It's technically the swollen meristem of the plant and forms above ground just like in the picture above. As the kohlrabi forms, it looks a lot like a kale plant or a broccoli plant. Then, after a few weeks of growing the stem will start to swell just above the ground. That's the good part, just like what you see below.

This oddball brassica relative of both broccoli and cabbage definitely HAS become a family favorite though. We first grew it three years ago on a whim. It was one of the first of what would become known as our annual "test crops". Crops that we would sow a small section of just as a test to see how they would do and if we would like them at all. It's funny that the more you get into gardening and the more confident that you feel, the more you want to try odd and unique plants. Well, with three kids at home I was hesitant to grow large amounts of anything that we didn't know for sure we would eat.

We have learned a few things in the last few years and have come up with some good ways to prepare and to cook kohlrabi. Because I've gotten a couple of requests and because it is apparently showing up now in CSA shares, I thought I'd share them with ya'll.

First off, bigger is not necessarily better with kohlrabi. This was a lesson hard learned last year. Because we had determined that we liked it, we wanted to maximize our yields from the plot that we were growing. So we let our kohlrabi get to a really big size, like softball sized. When we got around to cooking them, we found to our dismay that the insides of the "bulb" had gotten stringy. Not stringy in a good spaghetti squash kind of way, but stringy in a woody, not pleasant to the palette kind of way. Anyway I digress, The point is, you can harvest some as they form up, and then continue to harvest as they get larger. if you start to see them stall at a particular size, chances are they are done.

To prepare kohlrabi we cut off the stems and set them to the side. Then I like to cut the top and the root section off the bulb and work my way around with a knife cutting off most of the woody outer section. I finish peeling the outsides off with a regular potato peeler. You can tell when you've gotten down to the good part because it will look exactly the same as if you had peeled a thick stem of broccoli. That's because they are essentially the same thing! Now that you know that, I bet you have lots of good ideas on what to do with them. First though, let's talk about those leaves.

The leaves of the kohlrabi are a totally edible part of the plant. They're a sturdy leaf, much like kale for instance and can be treated much the same way. After harvesting a good number of kohlrabi plants, I generally take the young new growth leaves from the center and set them aside in a separate pile. These should be sauteed as soon as possible to get the best flavor and texture from them. The older leaves toward the outside of the plant have a much woodier stem that needs to be removed before cooking; the easiest way is to fold the leaf in half along the stem and slice the stem right off, even up into the leaf portion. You can slice the leaves up thin and steam them or sautee with some onion or use them much the same way you would a kale or Chard leaf for instance. They're not the best part of the plant, but they're definitely a usable part of the plant particularly if you are a fan of greens. The other thing to do, if you have chickens, is to slice up the leaves and feed them to the girls. They love em and it's a good source of green vegetation too. Now, on to the good part... the bulb!

I don't know about your families, but in our home one of the ways we can always count on veggies being scarfed down is to put them in a dish with a little veggie dip and just go at them raw. Kohlrabi is great for this. After peeling the bulbs you can cut them into thin french fry size pieces perfect for any veggie tray.

Of course you can cut them into chunks and steam them till they're just tender to the bite, and plate them with just a little salt (and butter if you like) and they're great too. If you like the ole cheese sauce thing with broccoli that's a perfect way to serve them as well. (I personally am not, but to each their own!)

If your a fan of stir fry, broccoli beef for instance, you can take the peeled bulb and run it over a course grater or mandolin to get a thin julienne that you can drop in a hot pan with some garlic and onion and a little soy sauce for instance for just a few minutes till the strips are tender. If your vegetarian some marinated tofu would go great with this.

Probably our biggest family favorite for kohlrabi is to put them into hobo dinners along with whatever else is fresh from the garden. Early potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions and a ground beef patty seasoned well and wrapped in an aluminum foil pouch and placed on the grill or around a campfire till the veggies are done. Mmmm, we just had these last weekend while we stayed up at a cabin in the mountains and they were as good as ever!

The flavor of kohlrabi is familiar yet unique and the plants are reliable as an early and late crop. Where broccoli can be picky in some climates and bolt early or not form heads at all, Kohlrabi is generally a lot less finicky, gives good yields and has a very similar taste profile. If you haven't tried it, give it a chance, if you do I think you'll find this interesting looking veggie will become a favorite of yours as well!

If you have any personal recipes or if you decide to try any of the ones I've mentioned please share your input. I'm always looking for more ideas and would love to hear how your taste tests worked out!

Best of luck!


esp said...

We've been using our CSA kohlrabi in soups. I just peel and chop it and then pretend it's a potato. I like your stir fry idea. I've been stumoed about what to do with kohlrabi in warm weather, as we're not making soup in the heat.

We really, really like kohlrabi greens made as pesto. It is surprisingly good!

Vegetable garden said...

It looks like an organic sputnik. Tender, young kohlrabi is delicious eaten raw but it can also be steamed or boiled.

Jasonbx said...

Excellent timing on the post. We had decided it was time to start doing something with ours. My wife had planted it on a whim as something she remembered from childhood, and I don't think I have ever had it before.