Kohlrabi, Brassica oleracea, is an alien-looking vegetable. Also known as “cabbage turnip” from the German words Kohl meaning cabbage and Rabi meaning turnip, kohlrabi is a botanical variety of cabbage that was bred to have a bulbous stem. At first glance, it appears to be a root vegetable, similar to a turnip, but the bulb grows above the ground, making it an interesting sight.
Kohlrabi matures between 38 and 62 days from seed to harvest depending on the variety. Like cabbage, it comes in both green and purple, and is in season here in Yavapai County from May through December. Similar to other members of the Brassica family, Kohlrabi can withstand light freezes and prefers mild temperatures. The stem (or bulb) stores well when refrigerated for several weeks, while the leaves stay fresh for three to four days.
It was first grown in Europe around 1500 and was imported to the United States 300 years later. While kohlrabi has been popular in Europe for centuries, it is just beginning to find a place in farmers markets and kitchens here in the US.
Kohlrabi has a flavor akin to broccoli stems and is best harvested when small. Stems that are much bigger than 3 inches begin to develop woody fibers, especially in the lower part of the expanded stem. This vegetable is a good source of Thiamin, Folate, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a particularly good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
Both the stem and leaves of the plant are edible. Kohlrabi can be prepared in many ways: sliced and baked for fries or chips, chopped into slaw, roasted, steamed, raw or shaved in a salad. It’s a good addition to soups and curries as well.