I had spied this strange pale green guy at the market long ago.
I wondered what it was. A blanched beet? A spidery wild cabbage? A leafy green married to a veggie tuber?
But as this interminable German winter is dissipating, I thought – who cares what it is! I better buy one soon! What if this little alien decided to lift off and disappear?
And so, here we are. Faced with Kohlrabi, aka a German turnip.
I felt rather certain that I hadn’t seen this vegetable before and that it would be missing in action from my favorite cookbooks. But nope. There it was.
Here’s how “The Flavor Bible” describes it:
“Kohlrabi is an underrated vegetable. I admit it has not always been one of my favorites, but it has grown on me over the years. Now, I love it. I can’t precisely place its flavor, which is somewhere between a turnip, radish, and cauliflower.” – Vitaly Paley, Paley’s Place in Portland, Oregon
Vitaly goes on to say how versatile it is. His favorite way to make it is grilled or roasted and drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. (I was intrigued, but my grillmaster was absentee.)
Then I turned to Mark Bittman. I am ridiculously delighted when I find a gap in his classic “How to Cook Everything,” (it must be my old copy-editing self, the way-too-literal side of my brain). But he had kohlrabi covered:
“A bizarre-looking vegetable that’s treated like a turnip. The whole plant is edible, cooked or raw, but it’s the bulbous steam base that’s prized for its sweet, slightly piquant flavor and crisp texture.”
Peeling was recommended, but first, I wanted to peek inside.
I trimmed the arms off, turned it over, and sliced it in half.
Here’s the inside. It looked rather like the inside of an apple or a radish to me.
Having no earthly idea what to do with it, I hacked it into slices.
The taste is very fresh, sort of like the great hit you get from an apple straight from the tree – but not sweet. Raw Kohlrabi is crisp, like a radish, but with the flavor impression of a snap pea plucked from a garden tendril. Very nice.
But I couldn’t eat all that raw Kohlrabi. I needed to cook it.
Kohlrabi gratin? Kohlrabi risotto? Roasted Kohlrabi?
I was still confused what Kohlrabi would taste like cooked, so I turned to “The Flavor Bible” for ideas. It recommended, among other things, soy sauce. Recommended cooking techniques included stir-fry.
So that’s where I headed. (Plus, we had leftover steak and rice from last night, and a red bell pepper waiting to be used. And we always have garlic and onions.)
Ten minutes later, my first Kohlrabi lunch:
The Kohlrabi softens nicely, with a clean, savory taste that fit in with everything else well. I even got daring after a test bite and squirted fish sauce over the entire pan!
Kohlrabi turned out to be simpler to deal with than other veggies, like artichokes or even pesky broccoli with all its florets. I think Kohlrabi will definitely be circling for a return visit.