There is a section of the produce department where curious produce lives, full of gnarly root vegetables and endless greens. I am on a mission to try them all, find their sweet spots, and when I can, grow them at home. This month, you’re likely seeing early summer kohlrabi, and these satellite-looking orbs are more delicious and versatile than they appear.
What is Kohlrabi?
Despite its appearance, kohlrabi is not root vegetables. It’s in the cruciferous family, and is a cousin of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. It’s kind of like jicama, with a dense starchiness and sweetness, and a broccoli- or cauliflower-like root.
Kohlrabi, in the garden, looks completely different than it does at the farm stand. Leaves and stems grow outward from the little orbs, and they come in charming shades of purple, pale green or white, although inside they’re all the same pale ivory. In the garden, they look strange and sculptural, and baby kohlrabi are serious contenders for most adorable garden veg. Each year, I plant entirely too many, wooed by their unintentional cuteness. At harvest, those extra leaves and stems are cut off, so you’re left with the orb.
Break it down:
These sweet orbs are, primarily, exceptional sources of vitamin C, with 95% of your daily recommended dose. They’re also low-calorie and relatively low-carb, with a pretty decent amount of fiber.
Make a crunchy kohlrabi slaw
Most recipes I see call for a julienned kohlrabi in a slaw or salad, and I often see it married to apple. As we enter the peak of summer, when I struggle to find new and interesting takes on slaw, kohlrabi is worth exploring. If you only end up with one or two kohlrabi, grab your mandoline and get to slicing. You don’t need to peel kohlrabi, but you want to shave off the protruding bits (these are leftover stems). Because of its crunch, kohlrabi can stand up to a dressing in a raw salad well. (They should call it “kohl-raw-bi.”) I like my slaws as colorful as possible, without being drowned in dressing, and this recipe is a real winner on both counts.
Colorful kohlrabi slaw with soy lime dressing
- 1 cup of large julienned kohlrabi, any color
- 2 cups of shredded purple cabbage
- 1 cup of julienned carrots
- ½ cup of pickled red onion (you can substitute fresh red onion, julienned)
- ½ cup of red radishes, julienned
- ½ cup of Kewpie mayo
- 3 tablespoons of lime juice
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1-2 tablespoons of sambal or garlic chili sauce, to taste (you can substitute sriracha)
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ cup of sesame oil
- Optional: cilantro
If you don’t have a mandoline slicer, you can make matchsticks of any size (instead of a true julienne), but all of your vegetables should be roughly the same size when you’re done. Toss all the vegetables together. Add everything but the sesame oil to a blender or bowl, and blend or mix with a hand mixer until smooth, then drizzle in the sesame oil with the blender or hand mixer running to create an emulsion. Toss with the slaw and refrigerate until time to serve. Garnish with chopped cilantro if you care to.
Make a mash
If you like mashed potatoes, mashed kohlrabi is a unique and welcome alternative. It has the same consistency as a mashed cauliflower, with a little more bite. As with cauliflower, kohlrabi mash doesn’t require dairy to give it body, although it certainly doesn’t hurt. You can mash it effectively on its own, or with broth for extra flavor.
Mashed kohlrabi with dill
Chop your kohlrabi into quarters and bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Season the water with the Better than Bouillon and add the kohlrabi. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until it can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain and return the kohlrabi (without the broth) to the pot. Add your butter and mustard and use a masher or fork to break down the vegetable and mix in the butter and mustard. Season with salt to taste. Chop the dill and add it to the mash, stir it in and serve.
Grill kohlrabi for an excellent potato replacement
I hadn’t read of anyone doing so before, but it turns out kohlrabi is shockingly pleasing once grilled. It forms a crispy exterior skin, with a starchy, soft middle, making for a unique play on the roasted potato. If you’re looking for a unique side dish at your next bbq, or love the look of a giant platter of grilled vegetables, kohlrabi earns its spot. It takes on sauce spectacularly, but a little parmesan is all you need.
Grilled kohlrabi slices
- 1 large kohlrabi
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup of grated parmesan
Slice the kohlrabi into ½-inch-thick pieces. Marinate the slices in olive oil and garlic for at least 3 hours. Remove them from the oil, season them with salt and pepper, and place them flat on a hot grill, away from direct heat. I put them on the very back of the grill, and turned off that particular section. Close the lid, and allow them to cook for 8 minutes on each side. You’re looking for browning on both sides, and it should look a little like a roasted potato, with blistering skin. Once it’s reached that stage, sprinkle it with the parmesan, close the lid again for one minute, then serve hot.