Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What the heck is kohlrabi?

What the heck is kohlrabi?
More importantly, what do I do with it?

First off, let me introduce myself.  I’m Burt, and I’ll be writing most of the posts on this blog.  This is my first foray into food blogging, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time.  I’m really looking forward to sharing my culinary experiences with you, and learning of yours as well.  Ideas, recipes, questions, comments and rude remarks are all welcome at . Well, not just yet, though. Waiting for the technology fairies to set it up.  Bonus points for the first one to tell me who the quote “Questions, comments, rude remarks?” comes from.

Kohlrabi is a vegetable common in northern Europe.  The name even comes to us from German.  It’s an amalgamation of the words for “cabbage” and “turnip.”  That sort of explains the taste as well:  a mild cross between turnip and cabbage.  (Quite logical, those Germans, aren’t they?)  You can eat it raw, or boil it until tender and then do lots of different things with it.

I’m from the northern Midwest, and there are lots of German influences in that part of the country.  Growing up, my mom would make kohlrabi frequently when it was in season.  When we had it, the preparation was quite simple:  boil them until tender, then make a simple cream sauce and bake for a couple of minutes.  mmm… I can still remember having that.  As a matter of fact, I think that’s what I’m going to do with the ones in my box this week.

Here’s what you do.  While the entire plant is edible, I just use the root bulbs.  Take off the stalks, and either save for stock or compost.  Peel the bulbs until you just see the white flesh.  Slice into disks about ¼ inch thick, cutting in half if they’re large.  Boil the kohlrabi until you can pierce them with a fork, drain, and set aside.  To make the cream sauce, over medium heat melt some butter or margarine (maybe 2 tablespoons, more if you’re feeding an army).  Add an equal amount of flour, and continuously stir.  This is called a roux, and you can use it to thicken sauces and soups.  You can use flour and an equal amount of any liquid fat:  oil, butter, bacon grease, duck fat… okay, let’s not get too crazy.

The longer you cook the roux, the darker it’ll get.  The darker it gets, the stronger (more smoky) the flavor becomes.  When your roux is ready, add maybe a cup of warm milk, whisking to make sure it doesn’t get lumpy.  Let it thicken just a little, then add the kohlrabi and some salt and pepper.  If your sauce doesn’t cover all of the veggies, then add a touch more milk and let it thicken again.  Bake it in a 350-ish oven for maybe 10 minutes, and enjoy!

I’ve heard you can make a simple au gratin with it as well, but I’ve never tried it.  If you do, let me know how it goes.

Kohlrabi can also be eaten raw, usually by cutting it julienne and making a slaw.  I’ve used this recipe, which includes apples and parsley.  Another thing on my list to try is to use it in the slaw for fish tacos.  I’ve found some likely candidates for recipes here, here and here.

One last parting word.  It’s also Herb Season.  It’s not too late for you to plant some pots of herbs.  If you don’t think you’d like to go through the trouble, just take a stroll through a grocery store and see how much fresh herbs go for.  Buying one plant is about the same cost as one package of cut herbs, which will last you maybe a week.  Plus, growing herbs is pretty fool-proof.  Trust me, I’ve tried to mess it up.  If I can grow herbs, you can too.  If you don’t have a lot of space, you only need a couple of small pots to tuck on a windowsill here and there.  Fresh herbs are one of the best additions you can make to your cooking.  Stop by and ask one of Your Friendly Neighborhood Nalls Employees, and they’ll have plenty of advice to get you started.

If you have more interesting recipes or tips for this week’s CSA contents, please leave them in the comments.  One of the great things about Nalls is that it’s part of the community, of which you are also a part.  Join the discussion, and we’ll all be fantastic home chefs.  Happy cooking!


  1. Thanks Burt for expanding my horizons without expanding my waistline (too much).

  2. I hope you will be providing some vegan options in your posts as well, or at least mentioning alternatives/substitutes. Not all of us eat butter and/or duck fat! I think it is safe to assume that at least a proportion of the folks who have signed up for a cropshare of fresh weekly produce are vegetarians or vegans.

  3. I appreciate that a significant percentage of our readers will be vegetarians, and almost all of the recipes will be ovo-lacto-vegetarian. Nall's has some excellent dairy offerings. (If you haven't dipped your hand in the ice cream freezer, you're really missing out!) Many, but not all, should be easily converted to vegan. I'll admit, as an omnivore, I don't understand all of the rules for vegan cooking. I'd love it if you could make suggestions here in the comments.

    If you look at the next post, most of those recipes and techniques listed there are (as far as I can tell) vegan friendly. I assume that butter can be substituted with margarine; is margarine vegan-friendly?

    For example, the above post talks about a roux. You can definitely make a roux with plant-based oils as the fat. For example, peanut oil is very frequently used to make a roux in Cajun cuisine, as the high smoke point lets you make a really dark roux with an intensely smoky flavor. This is the traditional base for gumbo.

    Thanks for the feedback, I do really appreciate it and will keep in mind to mention substitutions for vegetarians/vegans as much as I can.

  4. Kohlrabi is NOT a root vegetable, but grows above ground, unlike the turnip it kind of resembles. It's rather an interesting plant when you see it in the field.