I recently had the good fortune to sample a spiralized kohlrabi “pasta” dish with cilantro, citrus, olive oil, and scallions.
And truth be told, I was skeptical. Kohlrabi seemed to be the least compelling item on a menu featuring both far-flung delicacies and fresh takes on comfort food favorites. Could the humble vegetable hold its own at the table?
The answer, of course, was yes. The dish turned out to be an unequivocal hit, standing up admirably alongside steak, cornbread, and other hearty helpings. I heard more than one diner ask the kitchen staff about the dish over the course of the evening. So, what is the deal with kohlrabi?
A welcome addition to a salad, slaw, soup, or stir fry, kohlrabi has been steadily encroaching on the center of the plate in recent years, leaping out of obscurity and onto menus throughout North America. With its on-trend health attributes, pleasing crispness, and sweet, subtle taste, kohlrabi has been garnering more and more limelight—and rightly so. A thoroughly versatile veggie, kohlrabi can be puréed in lieu of mashed potatoes, made into home fries, or simply eaten raw with salt and pepper—it even makes an excellent pasta.
A compound word derived from the German “kohl” (cabbage) and the “rübe” (turnip), kohlrabi is frequently compared to other well-known produce offerings—a radish’s texture with jicama’s subtle sweetness, and edible leaves like kale or collard greens. And while the vegetable is technically the stout stalk and leaves of a selectively-cultivated cabbage variety, it’s bulbous appearance has invited comparisons to everything from a Martian life form to an octopus.
Traditional German dishes often involve preparing kohlrabi like a potato, “creaming” the veggie, for example, in a roux-style sauce made of butter and flour and serving the veggies with sausage. Though the cabbage cultivar is believed to have originated in central Europe, and is central to classic German cuisine, enthusiasts across various borders have elevated kohlrabi to an integral ingredient in dishes throughout the world. Kohlrabi has developed a popularity throughout Asia and India—where in Kashmiri cuisine kohlrabi is a staple food, eaten with rice and served with soup.
And while a plate of noodles might leave you wanting in the way of nutrition, kohlrabi is filled with vitamins and minerals—including potassium, manganese, iron, and calcium, vitamins C, V, K, and B-complex vitamins.
Steamed, stewed, spiralized, raw, or smashed and served as a fritter, this is one vegetable you’ll be hearing a lot about in the future.
Sources: Washington Post, Cyclopedia of American Agriculture, Epicurious, The Spruce