Adventures with Fresh Produce: Kohlrabi

“What’s that?!” I was teaching a nutrition class to middle school-age children last summer when a student asked about kohlrabi. An assortment of fresh produce had been dropped off at the school from a local community garden to send home with anyone that could use it. When the student pulled the large kohlrabi bulb out of the grocery bag, I was thinking to myself, “I hope someone else knows what that is.” Fortunately, the class I was teaching was co-instructed by a chef and she stepped in to answer the question. I think I was just as curious as the students.

The donated kohlrabi bulbs were probably more mature than desirable (as large kohlrabi can become tough and woody), but nonetheless still a fascinating new discovery. I didn’t end up trying kohlrabi that year, but recently got the urge to give it an honest try. I was curious to learn about this vegetable because it was completely new to me. Kohlrabi is actually part of the cabbage family. According to the University of Illinois Extension, it was originally grown in Europe around 1500 and was imported into America, some 300 years later. Its appearance resembles a round turnip with its leaves standing up like spokes.

Last weekend, while my husband and I were browsing at the Omaha Farmers Market, a few vendors were selling kohlrabi. I asked if he wanted to try some, and he had a similar reaction to the students and me during our first experience with kohlrabi. “What is it?” he asked.  I explained and vouched that some of my coworkers liked it. So we decided to give it a try.

I was excited to try a new vegetable, but honestly a little bit hesitant with my first bite. The edible portion of kohlrabi looks a bit like the inside of a potato or an apple, although it does come in green and purple as well. Its texture is crisp and the flavor is mild, slightly sweet, with a bit of a cabbage taste. I found that I liked the flavor more with every bite.

Basics of Selecting and Preparing Kohlrabi

Look for kohlrabi that appear fresh and are smaller than 3 inches in diameter, as they tend to get hard and woody as they increase in size. Small kohlrabi bulbs which are young and tender generally do not require peeling. Medium to larger sizes should be peeled to remove the protective outer skin. The crisp flesh can be served raw in salads, as a relish, or with dips as you would with carrot sticks. The bulb can be sliced, cut into quarters, cubes or julienne strips and steamed until tender-crisp.

Take advantage of the fresh produce that is coming out this summer. This is when flavors are best and the prices are down. Here in Nebraska you can find an assortment of locally grown produce to take advantage of. Get out there and try something new! Or even an old favorite that you know is going to taste amazing since it is fresh picked!

Fruit or Vegetable Peak Times for Buying In Nebraska
Asparagus April – May
Rhubarb April – June
Leaf Lettuce May – October
Spinach May – June
Radishes May – June
Strawberries June – September
Beets June – July
Sweet Potatoes June – October
Broccoli June – July
Cabbage June – October
Carrots June – September
Cauliflower June – July
Green Beans June – October
Peas June – October
Peppers, Bell & Chili June
Snow Peas June – October
Onions June – October
Tomatoes June – October
Zucchini June – October

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