Local Vegetable Spotlight: Kohlrabi


The correct response: What is kohlrabi.

My love for this odd looking vegetable began last fall at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market. One of the many great things about “SJFM” is the wonderful variety of produce for sale and the fact that the farmers themselves are very knowledgeable about their products. It’s a great opportunity to step outside of the Jiggs quartet of carrot/turnip/cabbage/potato, and I find myself coming home with something different just about every week.

 One Saturday last fall at the market a basket of round, bumpy, purple things demanded my attention.

 “What IS it?” I asked the farmer.

 “That’s kohlrabi m’love”, he replied. “It’s a German vegetable, most people eats ‘em raw with a dip, but you can grate ‘em in a salad or stir-fry”.  

 And so began my obsession with kohlrabi.

Photo credit: The Spruce Eats

Photo credit: The Spruce Eats

The word “kohlrabi” comes from the German for “turnip cabbage”…oh those astute Germans.  It is quite similar to a turnip in appearance (though it’s not actually a root vegetable), with a mild, delicate cabbage-y flavour (both green and purple varieties taste the same). What really makes it such a winner though, is the texture. Moist and crunchy, the closest comparison I can come up with is with water chestnuts, making kohlrabi an excellent addition to stir-fries.

When buying a kohlrabi, try to find one that still has the leaves attached, because they’re edible as well and quite tasty – use them as you would use other greens like chard or kale. To prepare the kohlrabi, simply chop off the bottom and top, and remove the tough peel with a sharp knife or veggie peeler. Then slice, chop or grate the kohlrabi, depending on what you intend to do with it. If you happen to own one of those high-end countertop spiralizers, definitely try kohlrabi spaghetti (kohlragetti? spahlrabi?).

 My favourite way to eat kohlrabi is cut into sticks and dipped in natural peanut butter, and it’s also lovely with hummus or yogurt dip.  I always have kohlrabi sticks on hand in my fridge; they keep well for over a week if kept in an airtight container.

Image from Herbal Healer

Image from Herbal Healer

As for health benefits, kohlrabi is a member of the same family as kale, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, so it’s a nutritional powerhouse loaded with phytochemicals, vitamin C, potassium and calcium. One cup of kohlrabi (135 grams) provides contains only 36 calories, 4.9g fiber, and 8.4g carbs, making it a great choice for anyone watching their caloric intake.

 Kohlrabi is commonly eaten in German-speaking countries, but also very popular in Vietnam, eastern India, and Bangladesh. If you’re a fan of South East Asian cuisine, it’s definitely worth your while to start experimenting with kohlrabi. They’re readily available at many stalls at SJFM each week, and you can usually pick up a good size one for less than $3. Go grab a kohlrabi this weekend, Google some recipes and get inspired!