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Wintry wonders: grow and cook with Kohlrabi and Rosemary.

Don't be deterred by kohlrabi's quirky appearance. Its crisp flesh makes an excellent companion to strong herbs, such as rosemary, well into winter.

Many people have never tasted alien-looking kohlrabi, but when they do, they find the crisp texture a nice surprise. Though related to cabbages, turnips and broccoli--kohlrabi translates from German to "cabbage turnip"--kohlrabi is milder than those brassicas. I like to spark up its pleasant, distinctive flavor with an assertive herb. During winter months, when I cook my stash of kohlrabi, the herb I choose is often the rosemary grown in a pot that I've brought indoors. Kohlrabi and rosemary pair wonderfully, and they're readily available as fresh crops through colder days.

Kohlrabi Cultivation

Kohlrabi is usually considered a root vegetable, although technically its round globes are enlarged stem bases. Unlike true root vegetables, such as carrots and parsnips, kohlrabi doesn't grow underground.

A kohlrabi "root" perches on the soil surface, sustained by a fibrous system of true roots below ground. It's an odd-looking, smooth-skinned orb with stiff stalks protruding from various points on its surface, like antennas pointing to the sky. The stalks on the sides bear large, dark green leaves--similar to collards--with new, smaller foliage sprouting from the top. Kohlrabi leaves are edible. So are the stalks, but, in my view, they're too tough to be worth the trouble of peeling and cooking.

Similar to its cabbage-family relatives, kohlrabi likes fertile soil with plenty of organic matter, and does best in cool weather. You could plant an early crop of baby kohlrabi for a late spring treat, but if you have to choose only one season, a fall crop makes more sense. We sow kohlrabi seed indoors in midsummer, and, as with most brassicas, set it out in the garden when the seedlings are about 3 weeks old. Then, we leave it in the ground until a hard frost is predicted. To harvest, we cut the orb at the base with toppers--the tissue there is too tough for a knife.

Kohlrabi's globes act as the plant's storage organs, just as carrots' roots do. We've found that kohlrabi keeps all winter when stored in the root cellar. If you don't have a cellar, use a frost-free outbuilding, a spare fridge or a cool room. Kohlrabi leaves will keep for at least a week if refrigerated.

Kohlrabi comes in pale green and bright purple hues. Varieties range from small (no bigger than 2 to 3 inches in diameter) to giant (the size of bowling balls). For a long time, I grew only the little ones, picking them young before they could become woody. Then, we started growing great big kohlrabi to feed to our laying hens in winter. The chickens adored them, and, amazingly, we liked them too.

The large kohlrabi--maybe not the biggest ones, but those about 4 to 8 inches across--even became a hot item with our customers at the winter farmers market.

Good kohlrabi varieties include the large, purple 'Kolibri,' and the green 'Gigante' and 'Kossack,' all of which scored well in trials at Cornell University, as did the smaller varieties 'Winner' and 'Grand Duke.' Breeders have mostly selected for tenderness. There's no compelling reason to choose purple kohlrabi over green ones, as the flesh inside both is the same white color. But the ribs of purple kohlrabi leaves do keep some of their color when cooked, and the roots look beautiful in the garden--or in a bowl on the kitchen table.

Kohlrabi Kitchen Know-How

Before cooking kohlrabi, slice off the tough base at the bottom and peel off all the fibrous skin. Inside, you'll find crisp, white flesh, tinted green just under the skin.

Kohlrabi can do anything potatoes can do, sometimes better. Sliced or cubed and then cooked, kohlrabi holds its shape without turning to mush. Try substituting kohlrabi for potatoes in potato salad, scalloped potatoes or potato pancakes, and you'll see what I mean. I'm not much of a deep-fryer, but I bet kohlrabi would make fine french fries.

Kohlrabi is good baked in a gratin, added to soups and stews, or tossed in olive oil and garlic and then roasted--in a medley of other root vegetables or by itself. I love it pureed with a little cream and great handfuls of parsley to give it extra flavor and a bright green color. In Germany, where kohlrabi is a popular vegetable, it's sometimes hollowed out and filled with a meat or bread stuffing--a good reason to grow roots that are somewhat on the large side, even if you don't have chickens.

The plant's green tops, especially those on large, older kohlrabi, can be a little bitter and strong-tasting if steamed or sauteed--normally my favorite ways to cook greens. Kohlrabi greens turn mild when simmered, blanched in cold water, drained and then sauteed. Aside from being nutritious, their best virtue is that they keep their shape better than other greens, and don't shrivel when cooked. This means you can cut them into ribbons, as recommended in the soup recipe on Page 18, and they will retain their shape as they float in the broth.

In addition to cooking kohlrabi, you can explore ways of eating it raw. Like turnips, kohlrabi can be eaten uncooked when young, whether grated or thinly sliced. It turns up in green salads, and you may often encounter recipes for kohlrabi coleslaw combined with other ingredients, such as sliced or grated apples. Try it as a dipper for hummus alongside the more standard carrots and pita bread.

Reasonable Rosemary

You can only grow rosemary outdoors through winter if you live in a mild climate. The herb is native to the Mediterranean, and prefers that region's sun and heat. Growing rosemary indoors is easy, but the plant requires regular moisture--just be sure to let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Feed rosemary a liquid fertilizer made from seaweed or fish to encourage new growth that will be lovely to cook with, soft enough to use in a winter salad, and perfect to stuff under the skin of a roasting chicken or scatter over a roasting root-veggie mix. As days start to lengthen in late winter, even more new growth will appear, making rosemary a reliable herald of spring.

Kohlrabi Canapes with Horseradish Cream

Kohlrabi "chips" are a nutritious, gluten-free and all-around
healthy alternative to crackers. The trick is to slice them thin
enough to be tender, but still thick enough to support the topping.
For this use, small kohlrabi are better than large orbs, both for
tenderness and shape, and freshly harvested ones are better than
those that have been kept long in storage.

The topping should be thick enough to form a tidy mound on the
kohlrabi chip. If you use regular yogurt rather than Greek-style,
which has been strained to remove some liquid, it will be runny and
prone to dribbling--although it could still be used as a dip
instead of a spread. Another solution is to use a firm creme
fraiche instead of sour cream, which will solidify the mixture.
Minced scallion tops, snipped chives or another favorite fresh herb
can substitute for rosemary. Yield: 12 canapes, about 2 to 4

Directions: To make the horseradish cream topping, combine the sour
cream, Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, horseradish and salt in a bowl,
and whisk vigorously until smooth. It will make about 1/2 cup.
Refrigerate if made ahead.

Slice the kohlrabi crosswise to make 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Discard
any that are less than 1 inch in diameter, or reserve for another
use. With a small spoon, drop a mound of topping onto each kohlrabi
chip, leaving a little space around the edges. Pluck the rosemary
leaves off the stems, and top each wafer with a few leaves. Arrange
on a plate and serve.


* 2 tbsp sour cream or
  creme fraiche
* 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
* 2 tbsp mayonnaise
* 1 tbsp grated horseradish
* Pinch of salt
* 4 kohlrabi, 1 1/2 to 2 inches
  in diameter, trimmed
  and peeled
* 1 to 2 sprigs of
  fresh rosemary

Kohlrabi Soup with Asian Flavors

This is a light, low-calorie soup composed of hearty storage
vegetables. Have it for lunch with bread on the side, or as a light
supper. A small ladleful of this kohlrabi soup could also make a
not-too-filling start to a dinner with guests. Serve in shallow,
light-colored bowls so the individual ingredients are
well-displayed. Vegetable stock, or a stock made from beef, chicken
or pork, can substitute for the water to further enrich this
recipe. But because the soup does make its own broth, stock is not
necessary. If you like your soup spicy, add a squirt or two of
Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce. This healthy vegetable soup
tastes best with fresh ginger, but you may substitute 1 teaspoon of
powdered ginger if needed. Yield: 4 servings as a main dish, 6 as
an appetizer.

Directions: Cut the kohlrabi into matchsticks, about 1 inch long,
to make IV2 cups. Cut the carrots the same way to make 1 cup. Chop
the celery into small cubes to make 1/4 cup. Peel the onion, cut in
quarters, and slice thinly to make about 1 cup. Pour the sesame oil
into a large skillet and add all the vegetables. Cover and sweat
them over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring every few
minutes to make sure they don't burn. Remove the lid and turn up
the heat to medium. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring, as the
vegetables begin to caramelize. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove and discard the ribs from the kohlrabi greens. Slice the
greens into narrow ribbons. In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups of
water to a simmer. Add the tamari, sherry, ginger, garlic and
vegetables, including the kohlrabi greens. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Taste for salt, and ladle the kohlrabi soup into individual bowls,
mounding the vegetables slightly in the center. Serve hot.


* 1/2 pound peeled kohlrabi,
  preferably less than 3
  inches in diameter
* 2 medium carrots,
  scrubbed but not peeled
* 1 small rib celery
* 1 medium yellow or
  white onion
* 1/4 cup toasted
  sesame oil
* 4 kohlrabi leaves,
  preferably no bigger than
  your hand
* 1/4 cup tamari or
  soy sauce
* 1/4 cup cream sherry or
  other fortified sweet wine
* 2 tbsp fresh ginger,
* 2 large cloves garlic,
  grated or pressed
* Salt to taste

Kohlrabi and Cheddar Gratin

In this gratin, similar to scalloped potatoes, kohlrabi takes the
place of spuds. Even with cream and a cheese topping, the kohlrabi
flavor comes through. The slices hold their shape nicely despite
the casserole's long cooking time. Kohlrabi gratin is simple to
make and is oh-so-satisfying on a chilly day. Yield: 4 servings.

Directions: Trim and peel the kohlrabi and slice crosswise into
thin rounds. You should have at least 4 cups, packed. Arrange half
of them in overlapping rows in a baking dish--a 7-by-10-inch oblong
works well for me. Pour 1/2 cup of cream over the slices, and
sprinkle them with half the rosemary, salt and nutmeg, plus a
grating of pepper. Place the rest of the slices in overlapping
rows, as before, and pour the rest of the cream over the layers.
Sprinkle on the remaining rosemary, salt and nutmeg, and add
another grating of pepper. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for
about 45 minutes, or until the scalloped kohlrabi is fork-tender
and the cream no longer runs into the corner when you tilt the

Remove from the oven and distribute the cheese evenly over the top.
Sprinkle with paprika, and then place under the broiler for 1 to 2
minutes, until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.
(If you don't have a broiler, just return the dish to the oven
briefly to melt the cheese.) Serve hot or warm. Any leftovers of
this kohlrabi gratin are great reheated in the oven the next day.


* 1 1/2 pounds kohlrabi,
  each 1 1/2 to 2 inches
  in diameter
* 1 cup heavy cream,
* 1 tbsp fresh rosemary,
  finely chopped
* 1 tsp coarse sea salt
* 1 tsp nutmeg, ground
  or grated
* Black pepper,
  freshly ground
* 1/2 pound sharp
  Cheddar cheese,
  coarsely grated
  (about 2 cups)
* 2 tsp smoked paprika

Barbara Damrosch cooks kohlrabi and tends rosemary with her husband, Eliot Coleman, at Four Season Farm in Maine. She's the author of The Garden Primer and, with Coleman, The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook. The latter is available on Page 80.
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Title Annotation:The Gardener's Table
Author:Damrosch, Barbara
Publication:Mother Earth News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2016
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