I think most grocery store produce departments have what I call the “wtf section.” I just imagine that the poor produce manager hits a key and accidentally orders something like lycee fruit or nopales. When then these things show up to the store, they exclaim, “WTF is this stuff?” The people at the cash registers exclaim similar when you decide to buy the item.
This is the section of the store where I saw these guys, kohlrabi. I knew nothing about it, except it reminded me of an alien spaceship. Aliens spaceships and delicious food don’t really go together, but I decided to try it anyway.
Turns out kohlrabi is a cultivar of cabbage, but is known as the German turnip (because it kind of looks like a turnip). It was created from the wild cabbage plant, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens and Brussels sprouts. Coincidentally, it has a cabbage-like taste. It comes in green or purple, but both are said to taste similar. The purple variety is said to be sweeter.
It can be eaten raw, roasted, stir-fried, braised or any number of cooking preparations. Some people slice the kohlrabi thin like carrot sticks and use them raw for dipping. Some people eat them like an apple. I’ve heard the best way to eat them raw is sliced with a little salt. I tasted it that way. It reminded me of a raw potato, but with a slight cabbage taste. It also reminded me of a slightly less spicy radish. Some say it tastes like broccoli stems, but I tasted more cabbage than broccoli.
The greens are also edible. They can be eaten raw or cooked like any other greens. Raw, they taste a little bitter, reminiscent of raw kale. They need to be cooked like turnip or collard greens (low and slow) to get rid of that taste. I tried my greens at 5 minutes in and at 30 minutes in. The 30 minute cook time was primo!
According to the University of Illinois, kohlrabi has the mildest and best flavor when small. The greens are also not as bitter when they are young. Larger ones tend to be woody. I saw an episode of “Chopped” recently featuring kohlrabi (the day I cooked the stuff. I’m surrounded by kohlrabi now). The judges’ complaint to all the contestants was that the kohlrabi was woody because it wasn’t cooked long enough. I think mine are a little larger, but they did not taste woody. The University of Illinois says 2-3 inches across is ideal.
One cup of raw kohlrabi has about 84 mg of vitamin C and it also supplies some of the B vitamins. It’s also high in potassium and low in calories. It’s pretty high in protein for a vegetable too. The downside for low-carb dieters is that a cup contains 11 grams of carbs. That’s pretty high, especially since 5 grams are from sugar. It only has 2 grams of fiber.
Since I only had three (and there weren’t more at the market when I went back), I decided to saute the body of the plant and prep them like I would turnip greens. They tasted almost exactly like turnips and greens to me. The kohlrabi was a little sweeter and not as strongly flavored as a turnip, but really reminiscent of it.
I’m not crazy about turnips, but if you are these would be a great addition to your diet.
Here’s a tip about peeling them. They are white under all that green. You want to peel past the green. I took a photo of these before I realized it was white underneath. I should have peeled these a little bit more. The green skin is tough. Use a good peeler or, preferably, a knife.
- 3 kohlrabi (with greens)
- 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon of mustard seed (or to taste)
- ½ tablespoon of garlic
- ½-1 cup of water
- Olive oil
- Remove the greens from the kohlrabi and set aside. Peel the kohlrabi and remove all stems. Dice into cubes.
- Chop the kohlrabi greens into bite sized pieces, removing any tough stems. Wash them well (I always do at least 2 soaks with greens, most of the time three), and drain them well.
- Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to your pan, put on medium heat and get it hot. Saute the garlic, red pepper and mustard seen in olive oil for a few seconds before adding the kohlrabi.
- Get some nice brown on your kohlrabi (maybe 3-5 minutes).
- Add ½ cup of water and greens. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring and checking occasionally to make sure you have enough liquid. These should have the consistency of turnips and turnip greens.
Total fat: 0 g
Protein: 5g g
Total carbohydrate: 11 g
- Dietary Fiber: 2 g
- Sugar: 5 g