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Kohlrabi: How to Prepare and Eat the "Cabbage-Turnip"

Updated on September 1, 2014
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What is your experience with kohlrabi?

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Kohlrabi Defined

My first experience with kohlrabi was when I moved to Iowa. I saw the deviant vegetable at a Farmers' Market and asked the vendor for advice on how to make it: "We just peel it and eat it raw," he answered. That sounded doable! I brought two home and enjoyed a crisp, crunchy interior with a mild flavor and a slight radish kick at the end.

The first record of kohlrabi was by European botanists in 1554. The name translates to 'cabbage' (kohl as in cole-slaw) + 'turnip' (rübe, German for turnip). According to the cookbook, Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce, some botanists believe the vegetable to be a hybrid of cabbage and turnips. The edible portion of the plant grows at the base of the stem, just above the ground, while numerous leaves grow vertically up and off the bulb.

When selecting, look for medium sized bulbs, at most the size of your fist. Larger, older bulbs tend to become woody and have more fibrous interiors. There are light-green and purple varieties, although the flesh will always be white. If you purchase one with leaves, cut them off and save for another use before storing in your refrigerator or they may draw moisture out of the bulb and leave it spongy.

How to Harvest Kohlrabi

Growing Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi prefers cooler climates, and will be ready for harvest in late spring, or can be planted for harvest in fall where weather is appropriate.

  • Plant in an area with full sun.
  • Start seeding four weeks before your area's last average frost date. Kohlrabi need 45 to 60 days to mature and you should plan to harvest them before average temperatures raise to 75°F.
  • Loosen soil to a depth of 12 inches and add 2-4 inches of compost.
  • Bury seeds in wide rows 18-24 inches apart at 1/2 inch deep and 3 inches apart.
  • After the seedlings are a few inches tall, thin to 5 to 8 inches.
  • Keep soil moist. Steve Albert of Harvesttotable.com warns that kohlrabi without water will become woody. Consider using mulch.
  • Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family and will be a target for cabbage loopers and cabbage worms. There is a variety of methods to thwart these pests.
  • Kohlrabi is ready for harvest when the bulb is 2-3 inches wide in the spring. It can be harvested at 5 inches wide in areas with mild winters.

How To Prepare Kohlrabi

The quickest way to prepare kohlrabi is to eat it raw. The skin is fibrous and unappetizing, so it is ideal to peel the skin away or cut it into wedges for a bite-sized snack!

The video below shows a quick demonstration for how to efficiently cut away the tough skin.

*Please keep in mind that if you buy a bigger bulb, you will want to discard the core as well, as if can also become fibrous and tough to eat.

How to Cut Kohlrabi

Other Raw Kohlrabi Ideas

  • Pickle It in a Jar with other Vegetables
  • Add to Spring Rolls and Leafy and Fruit Salads
  • Enjoy Kohlrabi Sticks with a Salad Dressing Dip
  • Layer on Buttered Pumpernickel Bread; add Salt and Pepper

Raw Kohlrabi Recipes

One popular use for raw kohlrabi is in coleslaw, making it into a kohlslaw! Here are some Kohlrabi Slaw recipes:

Kohlrabi Slaw from Tide and Thyme

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Other Cooked Kohlrabi Ideas

  • Bake Thin Slices into Chips
  • Add to Omelets, Frittatas, and Quiches
  • Mash with Potatoes, Cauliflower, or Turnips
  • Boil and Garnish with Butter and Fresh Herbs
  • Add to Soups, Stir Fries, and Roasted Vegetable Mixes

Cooked Kohlrabi Recipes

Kohlrabi is as versatile as potatoes to cook! You can make it into a mash, into a pot pie, sautee on the stove top with some butter, grill it- like I said, extremely versatile!

Baked Kohlrabi Fries

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Other Ideas for Kohlrabi Greens

  • Add to Soups, Casseroles, and Pot Pies
  • Bake into Chips, similar to Kale Chips
  • Incorporate into Omelets, Frittatas, and Quiches

Kohlrabi Greens Recipes

Kohlrabi greens are best prepared as one would prepare Kale leaves. You will want to cut out the tough inner stem on the leaves. Here are some recipes:

Raw Kohlrabi Greens Salad with Lemon and Peppered Pecornio

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Kohlrabi Tonight

Now that you have seen all the ways you can enjoy kohlrabi, you can feel confident to purchase it!

  • You will most likely find it at a Farmers' Market, a Farmstand, or in a CSA share.
  • It is in season in late Spring/early Summer or in late Summer/early Fall, and will be sweeter after a frost.
  • Remember to buy medium to small sized bulbs- at most the size of your fist.
  • If the leaves are attached, cut them off and store separately.
  • Enjoy it raw or cooked!

Comments

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 2 years ago from United States

      Kohlrabi on buttered pumpernickel sounds really good! Thanks for the info and the links. --Jill

    • emufarm profile image
      Author

      emufarm 3 years ago from Iowa

      Rochelle Frank- thanks for taking the time to comment! I've never had a chance to grow them so your comment is helpful! : )

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country

      Also good cut in chunks, boiled and covered with a creamy cheese sauce (but what isn't). Its pretty easy to grow. The hardest part is planting the very tiny seeds sparsley so they have room to grow. Thanks for all the good recipe ideas.