Contrary to what it looks like, kohlrabi is not a root vegetable. Instead, as a form of cabbage, it’s a member of the mustard family. Its fleshy bulbous stem forms just above the ground looking something like the Sputnik of vegetable, with a squat bulb and antennae-like shoots.
The name translates from German as ‘turnip cabbage’ and the mild, sweet flavour is somewhere between these two vegetable cousins. Kohlrabi taste and texture can also be likened to broccoli stem, with a sweet yet mild, peppery bite—a little like radish.
Raw kohlrabi is juicy and crunchy and adds a fresh taste to salads and slaws. Chiffonade it finely and toss in a vinaigrette. Its lightly spicy crunch plays well with cabbage, carrots and greens. Diced kohlrabi is a nice addition to soups and stews and can be treated as a root vegetable, like turnip.
It’s particularly good in a creamy, puréed soup with mild spices so that its sweet flavour can really shine through. Or try it added to recipes for cream of potato, cream of broccoli, and even cream of mushroom soup.
Steamed kohlrabi can be served as a side dish with a little melted butter, mashed, or pureed and added to fritters.
In Germany, where kohlrabi is popular and readily available, you will often find it cooked in cream. Slices or chunks of the kohlrabi are boiled in broth or salted water until tender, then served with a cream sauce made with the cooking liquid.
Hungarians adore kohlrabi too, enjoying it as a creamy soup or stuffed—ground or leftover pork and beef are combined with egg and sour cream and stuffed into a hollowed-out kohlrabi.
Also popular in a lot of Indian cooking, kohlrabi naturally goes well with traditional Indian spices.
Like most other vegetables, when roasted in the oven, the outside of the kohlrabi caramelises and the flavour sweetens and mellows.
Kohlrabi is protected by a thick skin, which is either purple or pale green. There are no flavour variances between the colours, and the ‘meat’ inside is all the same off-white colour. Use a sharp knife to remove the skin, as it’s too thick for a traditional vegetable peeler.
Kohlrabi can be grown in most areas as it withstands frosts. Grown across the North Island from Pukekohe to the Horowhenua, and Canterbury during the warmer half of the year.