Eating the World

In Season: Kohlrabi

Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll teach you everything there is to know about local produce. Starting this week, Jennifer Woods will bring you fresh inspiration for how to prepare locally grown produce in a new weekly series called: In Season. Today's harvest: Kohlrabi.

You first met me on Chow Bella in the What are you Baking? series. My credentials: I'm a classically trained cook in the kitchen of life, I eat fast food (love Church's chicken strips and okra), I love to collect and read cookbooks, and I work at a CSA farm because I want to help keep these local farms around for a long time. I've worked at Crooked Sky Farms since 2007. 

Crooked Sky Farms is a community supported agriculture farm based in South Phoenix with pick up sites all over the state, including Tucson and Flagstaff. I've helped with organizing the members shares, recipes, photos, newsletters, selling at farmers' markets, social networking and I even started a (maybe the first ever) Restaurant CSA. Farmer Frank has taught me that farming is extremely hard work and while I still don't have much of a green thumb, I will have some tips and resources that I'll share about backyard gardening.

We're lucky to have year-round agriculture in this state and I encourage you to seek out this outstanding seasonal produce, whichever farm you choose to support. I hope to make cooking local food simple for you.

Winter in AZ is the time for roots, greens, winter squash and citrus. These are the heavy-duty hardy plants that can stand (and even enjoy) the cold. I'll jump right in and share with you what I did with some kohlrabi this week.

This is kohlrabi. It's the light green round vegetable with the great big leaves. Kinda looks like something E.T. brought down on his space ship. Nature is amazing. It also comes in purple.

Where the did this alien veg come from?
It originated in Northern Europe and is a member of the brassica family. Translation: it's a cabbage-y vegetable. It was popular in Germany in the 16th century and even has a nickname of "German turnip." Since then, it's fallen out of favor a bit and has been climbing up the popularity charts in the US more recently.

When is kohlrabi in season?
January through March

How do I eat it?
You can eat both the greens and the bulb. The bulb has an inedible fibrous skin that needs to be removed but the inner white flesh can be eaten raw or cooked.

With the bulb you can:
shred and make slaw
cube and roast
cube, steam and puree
make scalloped kohlrabi or something similar
slice thin and serve raw or pickle it as a palate cleansing snack

With the greens you can:
make greens chips
steam, chop and throw in pasta dishes like lasagna
make beans and greens
sautee with garlic

What does it taste like?
The bulb tastes like a broccoli stem and has a crisp apple-like texture. The tops have fairly thick leaves, and have a mild flavor, not bitter like some greens.

Selecting and storage tips
Pick kohlrabi with the dark green leaves attached and bulbs about 3" in diameter. They will keep in the fridge for weeks. Lop the tops off and store the bulbs and greens separately. The greens should be rinsed, dried well and kept in a large plastic bag with a paper towel thrown in to grab any extra moisture. The bulbs should be wrapped in a plastic bag too to prevent them from drying out.

This week I incorporated the bunch into a cioppino recipe I was going to make anyway. See, it's easy cooking with kohlrabi. Kohlrabi added to bean and cheese burritos, kohlrabi and chicken enchiladas, kohlrabi spiked spaghetti and meatballs...don't think so hard about cooking with kohlrabi. You. Just. Eat. It.

Cioppino with Kohlrabi
adapted from this recipe

1 T butter or olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 kohlrabis,
-bulbs peeled* and diced
-greens with stems removed and leaves chopped (I had spinach that needed to get eaten, so I used that instead of the kohlrabi greens in the picture)

1/3 cup dry sherry

2 teaspoons of italian seasoning

1 bay leaf

28 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice

2 cups of chicken stock, or thereabouts (or water or fish stock, whatever liquid you have - I used water and a few teaspoons of Better than Bouillon)

1 1lb bag of Seafood Blend from Trader Joe's

Salt and Pepper to taste

Crusty sourdough, for serving

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat and cook the onion and kohlrabi until the onions are translucent and the kohlrabi is slightly cooked. Add the garlic and and cook 30 seconds more. Add the sherry to deglaze. Pour in the tomatoes, slip in the stock, sprinkle the italian seasoning, toss in the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the kohlrabi is tender. Just before serving, heat up your bread in a hot oven and add the seafood to the soup. By the time the pot comes back to a boil, the fish should be done. Add salt and pepper to taste and dig in.

*You can peel the kohlrabi using a peeler or just a knife - that's what I do. I found a wacky video on youtube to help (and entertain): Swami Durchananda singing Janis Joplin and peeling kohlrabi.

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Jennifer Woods
Contact: Jennifer Woods