By Camille Storch
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Kohlrabi is a wonderfully under-appreciated vegetable that deserves a little more credit and attention. It originates from the same species as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collards, and Brussels sprouts, and you can definitely see and taste the resemblance to those close cousins. Like cabbage, kohlrabi can be purple or green. It has edible, kale-like leaves, but the above-ground swollen stem is what generally gets eaten.
If you want to grow kohlrabi in your garden, start seedlings in a greenhouse or a sunny spot indoors in the early spring for transplanting in early May. You can also plant seedlings in late July for an October harvest. Plant kohlrabi at one-foot spacing and make sure they get plenty of water, so they won’t get stressed and bolt before the stems fatten up. Pull your bounty of kohlrabis when they are about the size of a flat-ish baseball. They’ll get woody if you keep them in the ground too long.
If you have mature kohlrabi plants in your garden, they should pull easily out of the soil. Cut off the underground roots, but be sure to have a sharp knife for the job because they will be quite woody and hard. Sometimes it’s easier to break them off. If you buy kohlrabi at the farmers’ market, it will probably have the root and some of the leaves trimmed off already.
To prepare a kohlrabi, shear off all the leaves, and then peel the bulbous part. The skin is tough and basically inedible (though it would be great in soup stock). The root end is also fibrous and should be sliced off. You’ll end up with a pale green orb about the size of a lemon. Once it’s peeled, you can go ahead and slice it up and eat it raw, perhaps with a shake of salt. It’s crunchy and delicious, tasting quite similar to sweet broccoli stems.
Kohlrabi is a welcome addition to stews, slaws and salads. It could also be turned into a fine pickle or gratin. For more inspiration, peruse the recipes on the Portland Farmers Market website, or browse through TasteSpotting‘s collection of kohlrabi recipes.
Look for fresh kohlrabi at the farmers’ market in the next few weeks. Kohlrabi season is brief, so be sure to partake now while they’re at their peak.
Camille Storch is an off-grid mom of two living outside Philomath, Oregon. Her family gets a majority of their fresh food off their modern homestead, which includes a greenhouse approximately six times the size of their home. Camille raises Nubian dairy goats and spends a lot of time culturing some pretty darn good fresh cheeses. She also writes about local ecology, agriculture, and the reality of one family’s modest but joyful life on her blog, Wayward Spark (waywardspark.com).