Follow Your Food: Kohlrabi

Part of the joy to engaging in your local food community is eating seasonally. Part of the joy of eating seasonally is being open to catering your diet to incorporate some less common vegetable varieties. This requires flexibility, and is not always easy; but but a little creativity and passion, eating seasonally can open your world to meals that you would otherwise seek out only in restaurants. This week’s seasonal feature is Kohlrabi, as it is coming into season in the valley. I am really excited to include Kohlrabi in our produce boxes, as it is one of my favorite vegetables, and is not something that you can really find throughout the year, and because it is a cool weather crop, its spring growing season is short. So, we better enjoy it while we can right now.

Kohlrabi, like broccoli, kale and cabbage is another Brassica, meaning it is from the Mustard Family; more specifically, it is a cultivar of wild cabbage, brassica oleracea. It was first developed by German farmers who selected for cabbage plants displaying more lateral stem growth. Years of selection left growers with a bulbous, meaty, stem that earned its name cabbage (kohl) turnip (rabi). As a member of the Brassicaceae, it hosts many of the same nutritional benefits of its culinary cousins. Like kale and broccoli, Kohlrabi is high in iron, vitamin B, is very high in vitamin C and is well regarded for its antioxidant properties. Since “antioxidant” can be an ambiguous term, I will be more specific. Kohlrabi stems have high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids (organic pigments) found in many green veggies. These two pigments are known to help scavenge free radicals that contribute to nerve oxidation in your retinas. By reducing oxidative stress, lutein and zeaxanthin have demonstrated value in longitudinal eye health, and reducing cataract development. I can’t imagine many German farmers needed glasses during their later years working in the fields.

Photo Credit: Alaina Dodds; Green Bean Delivery

This Sputnik look-a-like tastes similar to a broccoli stem. Since the plant has been selected for greater lateral growth, more starchy glucose is stored in the stem, giving it more tender and sweeter flavor than other brassicas. From a culinary perspective, Kohlrabi can be served in a variety of ways from raw slaws to baked pies. To prepare it, you must first remove the tough outer skin, exposing the tender inner flesh. My best description on the inner stem would liken it to the crisp consistency of a salad turnip, but some would say it is as crisp and juicy as an apple. From here you can shred it into a slaw with carrots and cabbage, bake it to make home fries, or serve raw kohlrabi spears with something sweet and tangy.

This was my first taste of Kohlrabi of the season, so I went ahead and made two dishes out of it. The first is a Greek inspired Kohlrabi Pie that I found on New York Times, written by Martha Rose Shulman, and is perfect for serving on a cool early summer evening with a side of mutton or lamb. The second dish calls for kohlrabi home fries. I guess these could be considered a healthy alternative to potato fries since kohlrabi is less starchy and lower in carbohydrates than potatoes. Anyways, these are delicious and are best served with a tangy yogurt and honey mustard sauce. Don’t let this limit you, let your imagination explore the litany of options for the german “cabbage turnip”

Greek-Style Kohlrabi Pie:

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Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds kohlrabi, with greens if possible (Organic Redneck)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium or large onion, finely chopped (Cinco Estrellas)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced (Groundwork Organics)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh dill
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (Cada Dia Cheese)
  • 12 sheets phyllo dough (1/2 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. If the kohlrabi still has greens attached, stem and wash the greens and blanch in a pot of salted boiling water for 1 minute, or steam. Refresh with cold water, squeeze out excess water and chop coarsely. Set aside. Peel the kohlrabi, making sure to remove the fibrous layer right under the skin, and grate using a food processor fitted with the grater attachment.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it is tender, about 5 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt, stir together, and stir in the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and stir in the kohlrabi. Add another tablespoon of olive oil if necessary. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is very tender and beginning to color, about 10 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan from the kohlrabi, turn up the heat and cook, stirring, until it boils off. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the kohlrabi greens, dill and parsley, and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 10-inch tart pan or cake pan with olive oil. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and beat in the crumbled feta. Stir in the kohlrabi mixture and combine well.
  4. Line the pan with 7 pieces of phyllo, brushing each piece with olive oil, or a combination of olive oil and melted butter, and turning the dish after each addition so that the edges of the phyllo drape evenly over the pan. Fill with the kohlrabi mixture. Fold the draped edges in over the filling, then layer the remaining 5 pieces on top, brushing each piece with olive oil. Tuck the edges into the sides of the pan. Make a few slashes in the top crust so that steam can escape as the pie bakes. Note: If making a gratin, use a 2-quart baking dish, brush with olive oil and fill with the kohlrabi mixture.
  5. Bake the pie for 50 minutes (40 for the gratin), until the crust is crisp and dark golden brown. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Kohlrabi Home Fries. This one is super easy; doesn’t require many ingredients, nor does it take very long to cook. It is perfect for a Sunday Morning Breakfast. This Recipe is also from the New York Times, written again by Martha Rose Shulman.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds kohlrabi
  • 1 tablespoon rice flour, chickpea flour or semolina (more as needed)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons canola oil or grapeseed oil, as needed
  • Chili powder, ground cumin, curry powder or paprika to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Peel the kohlrabi and cut into thick sticks, about 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide and about 2 inches long.
  2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet (cast iron is good). Meanwhile, place the flour in a large bowl, season with salt if desired and quickly toss the kohlrabi sticks in the flour so that they are lightly coated.
  3. When the oil is rippling, carefully add the kohlrabi to the pan in batches so that the pan isn’t crowded. Cook on one side until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Then, using tongs, turn the pieces over to brown on the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes. The procedure should take only about 5 minutes if there is enough oil in the pan. Drain on paper towels, then sprinkle right away with the seasoning of your choice. Serve hot.

Recipe Pictures from New York Times website.

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