I spent over a quarter-century not having the fainest clue what kohlrabi was. The first time the root vegetable registered on my radar was in a friend’s garden when I asked what the Sputnik-like things were poking from the ground (a name that stuck for us Hubers). She answered “kohlrabi,” I went “huh,” and that was that. Until I spotted them, years later, at a farmers’ market and asked the farmer what on Earth she did with such a vegetable.
Whole kohlrabi “Sputniks” (top); raw kohlrabi wedges (bottom left); steamed kohlrabi wedges (bottom right)
I listened carefully, bought a few, then went home and followed her advice, steaming wedges of the bulb and dressing them with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Initially, the stinky feet cabbage-like smell turned me off while they were steaming (it’s actually the hydrogen sulfide emitted from all brassica oleracea vegetables–like broccoli and cabbage–when cooking), but all that was forgotten on first bite.
It had the texture of a perfectly cooked potato mingled with a raw carrot, and an earthy, complex, spicy-sweet flavor that was unlike any other root vegetable I’d tasted — like I’d added a dash of soy sauce or soaked porcini to the bowl. Wow, I thought. And so kohlrabi became a staple in my home. I steam kohlrabi for a snack; I make pickles from it; I roast it; and I substitute it whenever possible for potato.
How to Choose and Store Kohlrabi
You can see from the pic above that kohlrabi comes in both purple and greenish-yellow hues. When peeled, though, the flesh is always light green. Choose small to medium bulbs; I’ve found the larger ones to be more fibrous. Cut off the leaves as soon as you get home (you can zip them and use them like kale or chard), and you can store the bulb in the crisper for weeks.
How to Prepare and Cook Kohlrabi
Cut off the top and bottom, then peel off the outer layer with a Y-peeler until you get to tender flesh. I like to cut them into thin wedges for steaming or chunks for roasting. They’re also great raw; grate the bulb into salads or marinate matchsticks in brine and vinegar for quick pickles.
Give kohlrabi a try … these little Sputniks might just rock your world like they did mine.