Kohlrabi Deconstructed

Give this unusual veggie a try.

In the chill of winter, kohlrabi offers something crisp, but mild, as one fan put it,  ‘like if a carrot married a potato.’
—Eliana Reyes & Stefanie Gans

Jiang Hongyan/Shutterstock.com


Regal roots
While kohlrabi looks like a mix between an alien and Sputnik, this cabbage family member has been in demand since 800 A.D. when Charlemagne (a.k.a Charles the Great) had it grown in his lands. Today, kohlrabi remains popular in Eastern Europe and India.

As for the otherworldly name, the roots of the word “kohlrabi” are the German words for cabbage, “kohl,” and turnip, “rabi.”


Keep it in stock
Rich Landau, owner of vegan restaurant Vedge and “Chopped” winner, features a kohlrabi salad with white beans and horseradish in “Vedge,” the 100-recipe cookbook published this past fall. The Philadelphia restaurateur suggests peeling kohlrabi with a paring knife or peeler, though smaller kohlrabis sport thin skin and can be eaten as is.

But keep the scrap: The peels are “great in stock so don’t throw it away,” says Landau.


Bright white
Award winning cookbook authors (“What To Drink With What You Eat”) Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg suggest matching kohlrabi with Rielsing, or whites with some residual sugar, because “roasted kohlrabi could caramelize, bringing out sweeter notes.”

Kathy Limon of Ashburn Wine Shop suggests something “brighter and lighter, with citrus flavors,” when making a vinegary slaw with kohlrabi, such as the semi-sweet Vidal Blanc from Northern Neck’s Jacey Vineyards ($22.99).


Size doesn’t matter
Despite claims that smaller kohlrabi tastes better, Potomac Vegetable Farms gardener Hui Newcomb says it’s freshness that matters. “If you want the tastiest, you want to get it the freshest you can … from the grower or the farmer’s market.” Fresh kohlrabi should be firm, shiny and “if it has leaves on it, the leaves [should] look good.”


Any way you want it
With edible heads, stems and leaves, kohlrabi proves itself in raw form or roasted—from slaws to purees. In Falls Church, Open Kitchen’s Christopher Carey quick-pickles shaved kohlrabi for a slaw-topped salad and makes a broth out of kohlrabi for a soup with glass noodles, lotus root and savoy cabbage.

(December 2013)