According to Jane Grigson in her book entitled “Vegetable Book,” “There are better vegetables than kohlrabi and worse.” Sadly receiving such little praise tends to affect the majority of people’s thinking with regard to most things. This rather remarkable vegetable seems to have suffered greatly because of such a simple comment. The sad part of this story is that kohlrabi can be used to add an amazing amount of crunchiness to your salads or it can be steamed or fried, producing a sweet and tasty side dish. While it may have a relatively neutral flavor, kohlrabi is an excellent addition to both Mexican and Indian dishes.
The Origins of Kohlrabi
The earliest known records of kohlrabi show it originating during the 14th century in France. The name is broken into two parts, the first “kohl” denotes it as being a form of cabbage. The second part “rabi” is derived from Rübe or turnip due to the large white bulbous end of the head. However, this is the only resemblance this vegetable shares with turnips as it is sweet in flavor rather than strong and root-like.
The edible part of the kohlrabi plant looks very similar to many root vegetables, however unlike most, the entire plant grows above ground. Many believe it was very popular in medieval France and has long since fell out of favor. Even in France kohlrabi is now being treated as a relative unknown that requires further investigation. It is however far more popular in both Germany and Switzerland where you are likely to find many samples in the various farmer’s markets.
One thing that many people do not realize is the true nutritional value of kohlrabi. There are 2.5 grams of dietary fiber in a single half cup, when served raw one half cup contains only 19 calories. But this is only half the story. There are 245 grams of potassium in the same half cup measure, along with plenty of vitamins A and C, folic acid, and a total of 16.8 mg of calcium.
There are two varieties, purple and green. Most people agree that the purple variety is sweeter, but when you peel the outer skin off you will find the flesh is pale green in color. When shopping, look for the smaller heads as they tend to be sweeter and crisper than the much larger heads, which tend to have a woody texture. While kohlrabi is readily available all year round, the best time to buy young sweet heads is during the spring months and into early summer.