Fresh This Week: Weird and Wonderful Kohlrabi

I'll admit it: I like to eat what's familiar. When I'm in the produce section, I pick up what I recognize, and I'm sure many of our customers do too! But that means missing out on a world of new tastes, so I decided to do some research on some of the “weirder” vegetables available at Argus. This week I brought home some purple kohlrabi from Hand-Sown Farm, a versatile, colorful, and healthy choice!

 Gorgeous purple kohlrabi on the shelves at Argus.

Gorgeous purple kohlrabi on the shelves at Argus.

Kohlrabi: The Purple Octopus of the Garden

Definitely a weird-looking veggie, the kohlrabi inspires comparisons: a spiky hot-air balloon, an octopus. But don't be worried – the flavor is actually familiar and mild, like a sweeter broccoli stem or cabbage. This isn't a surprise, as like these veggies the kohlrabi is also a member of the brassica genus, and the round part that looks like a root is actually the selectively-bred stem. This veggie may look intimidating, but kohlrabi are healthy, tasty, and easier to use than you might think!

Kohlrabi is definitely an under-appreciated veggie. Like all the brassicas it has many health benefits, including phytochemicals that have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. It's high in dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and calcium, and has more vitamin C than oranges!

It's possible the kohlrabi dates back to ancient Roman times – in the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote about a “Corinthian turnip.” More recently, the word “kohlrabi” comes from two German words meaning “cabbage” and “turnip.” While popular in German-speaking countries, as well as in some northern Indian cuisine, kohlrabi is not a major crop in the U.S., so your best bet is usually to look for it at a local farmers' market like Argus.

 Kohlrabi: not as colorful on the inside, but still delicious.

Kohlrabi: not as colorful on the inside, but still delicious.

When choosing a kohlrabi, both the green and purple varieties are delicious, although the purple can be slightly sweeter, and both are green on the inside. The smaller bulbs can be sweeter and more tender, although keep in mind that you have to peel off the top layers, which is best done with a paring knife. (Although in Poland, they eat the most tender specimens raw and unskinned like apples.) Don't throw out those greens, either – those can be steamed or sauteed the way you might use beet greens or collards!

One of the challenges of using kohlrabi is actually its versatility, as the mild, pleasant flavor makes it suitable for a wide range of dishes. What to choose? You can slice, cube, or grate the bulb, and you can use the flesh both raw and cooked. You can try crisp, slightly spicy raw kohlrabi with dip, or grate it into salads. The health benefits may be especially good for raw kohlrabi, but the flesh takes on a sweeter flavor and creamy texture when cooked. You can think of it as a carrot or potato: throw kohlrabi into a vegetable soup, roast it with beets, or steam and blend it into "mashed potatoes" with some cauliflower and butter. Plus, steamed kohlrabi can be throw into just about anything, including pasta dishes and stir fries. It absorbs other spices well, but you can also let its own sweet flavor shine through!

 Kohlrabi and patty pan squash, fried together. Yum!

Kohlrabi and patty pan squash, fried together. Yum!

Feeling overwhelmed by options? Start with a simple recipe! Try cubing three peeled kohlrabi, then cook in plenty of butter over medium heat, for about 15 minutes, until the flesh is “al dente.” Add a tablespoon of sage and a pinch of salt – the result is a creamy, delicious side dish!

Another easy possibility is kohlrabi “fries.” Dip slices of kohlrabi into a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and any other spice you like – curry, cayenne, garlic. Place these slices, uncrowded, on an oiled skillet over medium-low heat, and cook on both sides until golden-brown.

Another favorite is savory kohlrabi pancakes! This might be the way to get kids to try this new veggie. (Recipe from Grace Communications Foundation).

Kohlrabi Pancakes

Ingredients:

4 small purple or green kohlrabi, peeled and trimmed
1 small onion, very finely chopped or grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 small green chili, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped or 1⁄4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1⁄4 cup (or more) all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander or ginger
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

1. Grate the peeled and trimmed kohlrabi on the large holes of a box grater. Wrap the grated kohlrabi in a clean dishtowel and squeeze until most of the excess moisture has been removed.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the shredded kohlrabi, chopped or grated onion, optional chilies or chili flakes, beaten egg, flour, coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until just combined. Add additional flour by the teaspoon if batter seems too wet (mixture should be somewhat firm).

3. In a large, heavy frying pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat until the butter stops foaming. Add ladlefuls of the pancake batter (about 1⁄3 of a cup at a time) to the pan, gently pressing down on the cakes with the back of a spatula. Cook kohlrabi pancakes until crispy and golden brown on each side.

4. Drain on paper towels and serve with sour cream, crème fraîche, yogurt or applesauce.

Makes 4 generously sized pancakes.

-- Post by Rose Miller

Sources
http://www.gracelinks.org/485/real-food-right-now-and-how-to-cook-it-kohlrabi
http://www.\vegparadise.com/highestperch24.html
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/06/good-for-you-kohlrabi
http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/11/butter-poached-kohlrabi.html
http://www.thekitchn.com/top-five-ways-to-prepare-kohlr-60321