While at the Farmer's Market the other day, I noticed a strange looking vegetable at several of the produce stalls. It came in both green and purple and seemed somewhat like a fennel bulb with multiple branching leaves. Seeing as it (whatever "it" might be) was in season, I decided to give it a try.
Kohlrabi, as it turns out, is a cultivar of the cabbage. The name comes from the German Kohl ("cabbage") plus Rübe ~ Rabi (Swiss German variant) ("turnip") (according to Wikipedia). Interesting.
I first sliced it and tasted it raw (recommended by a friend). It had a distinctive turnip-like bitterness, the texture of a crisp apple, and the flavor of a watered down broccoli stem. Hm. Not my favorite.
When it comes to recipes for strange vegetables I turn to Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love cookbook, a veritable encyclopedia of random non-meat foods. Only one recipe was devoted to the kohlrabi (Kafka states her husband hates it and she can only "abide" it.) Apprehensive, but curious, I read on.
The recipe called for a little water, a simple stuffing, and then microwave.
Given that I couldn't see myself eating the rest of the bulb raw, I figured, what the heck. I peeled off the tough outer layer, added a little water and into the microwave it went. Minutes later the kohlrabi came out a pleasant pale jade green, steamy and smelling surprisingly mild and fresh. I added a little olive oil, salt and pepper then gave it a taste.
Steamed kohlrabi has a delicate flavor, somewhere between a cauliflower and a turnip. If you like those two things (I happen to love cauliflower and will occasionally enjoy turnip if cooked properly), then kohlrabi is a worthy early summer vegetable to add to your plate. Who knew that microwaved food could turn out so well?
So the next time you are at the Farmers Market and see something strange, why not give it a try? You never know what you're going to get.