Brassica oleracea L., Gongylodes Group
Kohlrabi is also known as Cabbage Turnip, German Turnip, Turnip Cabbage, Chou-rave (French), Couve rabano (Portuguese)
The name comes from German ‘Kohl’ which means cabbage plus Rube-Rabi-the Swiss German, for turnip, because the swollen stem resembles turnip. It’s an annual vegetable, grown for its sweet, crunchy and bulbous turnip-like stem which is eaten raw or cooked. The leafy greens and stalks are also edible.
It originates in North western Europe, where it was developed from the marrow-stem kale, a fodder crop with thickened stems. Marrow stem kale is a descendant of the wild cabbage. Kohlrabi is adapted to temperate climate so is grown in North America, temperate parts of Asia and subtropical Asia (India, China, Northern Vietnam). It’s best grown in spring, fall or in winter in areas where hard freezes don’t occur.
The bulbous stem is light green or purple in colour, on the outside, but the edible portions are all pale yellow. The flesh has a texture similar to that of a broccoli stem, but with a flavour that is sweeter and less vegetal. The young stems are crisp and juicy like an apple but less sweet.
Kohlrabi is rich in vitamin C and fibre, and low in calories. 100g (3.5oz) portion provides 75% of the daily recommended vitamin C and only 27 calories.
Preparation and use
- Kohlrabi bulbs are surrounded by two distinct fibrous layers that do not soften well when cooked. These fibrous layers should be peeled with a sharp knife, prior to cooking or serving raw.
- The peeling of the thick layers often reduces the edible portion, appreciably. After peeling you can chop, slice, grate, julienne or cut into matchsticks depending on the recipe you plan to use.
- The leafy greens can be cooked like collard greens or kale. The bulbs can be cooked like root vegetables, or added to soups, risottos and stews.
What size is best for cooking?
In general, younger kohlrabi are more tender, while older kohlrabi tend to be woody. .
Spring-grown kohlrabi over 5cm in diameter tend to be woody
Full-grown kohlrabi over 10cm in diameter, are also woody.
The cultivar ‘Superschmelz’, from Switzerland, produces giant 10-inch diameter bulbs, weighing almost 5kg (10Ib), and remain tender and sweet unlike other giant kohlrabi.
There are several varieties commonly available, including ‘White Vienna’, ‘Purple Vienna’, ‘Grand Duke’, Gigante (also known as “Superschmelz”), ‘Purple Danube’, and ‘White Danube’.
Some varieties are grown as feed for cattle
- Kohlrabi is common cuisine in German speaking countries, where it’s frequently used raw in salad or slaws. It’s best cut into matchsticks.
- Kohlrabi is also an important part of the Kashmiri diet and one of the most commonly cooked foods. It is prepared with its leaves and served with a light gravy and eaten with rice.
- It’s also used in soups and stews or roasted like other root vegetables.
- Industrially, it’s made into deep frozen products.
How to Buy Kohlrabi
- If you can, buy bulbs that still have their leaves attached. This will give you a better indication of freshness, because the leaves wilt faster than the bulbs.
- Buy bulbs that feel heavy for their size and have firm and tight skins.
- Kohlrabi is available all year round, peaking in spring
How to store Kohlrabi
- You should always separate the leaves from the bulb and store them separately.
- The leaves should be kept in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge and used within a few days.
- Unpeeled bulbs will last in the fridge crisper for weeks.