(Brassica oleracea convar. acephala var. gongylodes— Family Cruciferae [Brassicaceae])
Kohlrabi (pronounced kohl-RAH-bee)
Kohlrabi is commonly called the cabbage turnip, which is the direct translation of the German kohl (meaning cabbage) and rabi (meaning turnip). At the time, it was thought to have been the result of a cross between a cabbage and a turnip.
The botanical name, gongylodes, refers to a type of small red turnip that looks like the purple kohlrabi. It is common in Central Asia, where its Kashmiri name is “gongolou”.
Kohlrabi is often erroneously referred to as a root vegetable, but it grows above the ground, producing an orange-sized tuber that develops in the stem rather than a flower like broccoli or buds like the brussels sprouts.
Although kohlrabi belongs to the brassicas, it is also classified as a stalk vegetable which develops not from the leaves, but from the lower part of the stem just above the soil line. The bulb can reach up to eight inches in diameter. Its colour ranges from whitish to greenish to reddish or deep purple.
The origin of this peculiar vegetable is disputed. Although the first reliable references made about it came from Germany in 1558 and France in the 14th century, it is thought to have existed long before that as a similar sounding vegetable was described by Pliny around 70 CE.
This vegetable is more resistant to drought than most brassicas and succeeds where rutabagas and turnips fail.
Although extensively grown in Kashmire, Germany is both the world’s largest producer, and largest consumer, harvesting 40,000 tons a year. Kohlrabi is also popular in other parts of continental Europe, but less so in the US and Britain.
Kohlrabi is the mildest tasting member of the cabbage family, with a flavour like that of the tender stems of broccoli. The leaves taste like kale or collards and are very rich in carotene, proteins, and minerals; but people often discard these valuable sources of nutrients.
The leaves should be removed from the vegetable as soon as it is picked or purchased as leaving them on will continue to rob the bulb of its nutrients.
The bulb itself is an extremely good source of vitamins B, C, and E, as well as calcium, iron, potassium, and phosphorus.
When the leaves are peeled back, a hard, round bulb inside is revealed. This needs to be peeled in order to reach the tender center that is best eaten raw, but can be lightly steamed. Kohl rabi is frequently used in Hungarian, German, and Chinese dishes.
Of the three colours available, green, white, or violet, all lose this if the vegetable is cooked.
Some varieties include the following:
has an attractive deep blue-purple skin.
Green Vienna and Lanro
have green skin and white flesh.
has purple skin and white flesh.
Rowel has green skin and white flesh, and it does not become woody if left to grow to the size of a tennis ball.
Trero is sweet and slow to become woody.
has pale green skin and a delicate flavour.