Often the kohlrabi is likened to an alien, perhaps due to its green color and outreaching arms. Truth be told, he is the son of a prominent family, the Brassicaceae’s, which count among their members some very well-loved vegetables like the cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. But even the best of families has its somewhat neglected “ugly duckling” of a sort. However, we’re here to tell you that the kohlrabi is by no means ugly, it’s delicious, and it chalks up a champion score in the medicinal value department.
So our friend is indeed rather strange looking, and that is because he is a very unconventional phenomenon in the vegetable world. We know vegetables that are the fruit of the plant, or the leaves, or the flowers or even the roots, but this time it’s the stem! In the beginning of its growth, the kohlrabi looks a lot like the cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli or kale plant. It sprouts green leaves on an upright plant. But upon maturity, the kohlrabi searches for an individual identity, and suddenly its stem thickens, curves up and becomes ball-like until a round kohlrabi sits on the earth (not under it!), light green (or purple, depending upon the type), sweet and juicy.
The origin of its name derives from German: kohl=cabbage, rabi=turnip. But it isn’t really a hybrid of the two. The name was given perhaps because the vegetable belongs to the cabbage lineage, but looks like a turnip or a similar bulb. But that too is misleading, because the kohlrabi is neither a root nor a bulb, but rather a thickened stem.
The geographic distances the kohlrabi has traveled over the years wouldn’t shame any frequent flyer. Like the rest of its family, the kohlrabi’s ancestor is the wild cabbage, or curly cabbage, whose origins are quite ancient. In the first century, Roman agronomists and cooks wrote about it. Roman Emperor Karl the Great demanded that kohlrabi be planted in his kingdom. From Europe it traveled to North India in the 17thcentury, where it became a main component of the Hindu diet. From there, our vegetable migrated to Northern Africa, the Middle East, China and Africa, and later, to the United States–specifically, to the southern kitchen. To this day, kohlrabi is a main favorite in Indian, Asian, German and Hungarian cookbooks.
The kohlrabi is speedier than the rest of his family, because we don’t have to wait for the plant to flower in order to get to the edible part (like the cauliflower or broccoli) or for the leaves to close (like the cabbage.) As a matter of fact, the kohlrabi should be picked early, when it hasn’t yet matured. A big kohlrabi means it was picked too late, and its texture is liable to be fibrous. This is also the reason you occasionally receive tiny kohlrabies. Sometimes the winter stops their growth, but a longer wait would have harmed the juicy, crispy texture, which is why they were picked small. The good news is that small-sized kohlrabis do not have to be peeled, as their skin is very soft and delicate.
Kohlrabi can be eaten in any form. It is customary to eat it raw, but it’s delicious grilled or roasted in the oven or an outdoor grill. It is super tasty when cooked or steamed, not only in soup, stir-fried in butter or baked with salt, white pepper and sage. Kohlrabi can even be pickled. In Chinese-food recipes, it can substitute for radish or turnips and for water chestnuts. Its leaves are similar in taste to kale and can be used similarly and added to soup, pasta sauces and stir-fries. The stems are hard and unusable. Take a peek at our recipe section to get ideas of non-conventional ways to use kohlrabi.
Health-wise, the kohlrabi holds all the medical merits of the Cruciferae family. It is an outstanding source of Vitamin C (one cup of sliced kohlrabi supplies the recommended daily portion), and like the cauliflower, is a great source of nutritional fiber. Kohlrabi also contains high levels of potassium, folic acid and calcium. In folk medicine it is considered to cleanse the blood and kidneys, as well as being beneficial for the lymphatic system and for digestion. Nissim Krispil writes of Moroccan Jews who make kohlrabi and honey juice to remedy hoarseness and mucus. In natural medicine kohlrabi is mixed with other vegetables to make a juice that treats asthma, improves lung function, sinus problems and the thyroid gland. Adding carrot juice will improve the taste of kohlrabi juice.
So the kohlrabi is picked young, in some seasons less than two months after being planted. But it is in fact a bi-seasonal vegetable, meaning that in order to arrive at a complete growth cycle climaxed by seed production, it must undergo two growing seasons. In between is a rest period, or “incubation,” after which it will flower and produce seeds over the following springtime.
Kohlrabi favors a cool climate. We try to lengthen the season as much as possible and plant it at the end of August. But we’re always plagued by doubts whether it’s the right time, as the first round of kohlrabi in our fields finds itself trying to battle the end of summer heat. When the poor vegetable suffers heat stress, it is more vulnerable to insects and other problems. The white fly is a most annoying tiny aphid that is very fond of kohlrabi and loves climbing all over it.
The white fly has a special passion for the brassicas, literally strangling them with love. It situates itself on their leaves and totally blackens their faces. The pest is nurtured by the plant and weakens it, while secreting large quantities of honeydew, a sticky sugary substance that attracts the sooty mold fungi which covers the leaves in black and decreases their ability to undergo photosynthesis. When it hits the kohlrabi, the result is white tasteless fruit and a very small yield. (Thankfully, only a handful of you met such sad kohlrabis a few weeks ago.)
The good news is that as the temperatures plunge, the fly becomes lethargic. In the middle of September during our second planting round, two weeks after the first, there was much less harm. (Sleep tight over your winter slumber, Annoying Fly.) We’re delighted to report that Chubeza’s current kohlrabi yield is quite fine, and the vegetables are green, juicy and delicious. This is the present harvest of our cool-rabi, so give it due respect and make room for it on your plates. That kohlrabi overcame a great deal to reach your homes and make your hearts and bellies sing.
We’d like to take this opportunity to send our warmest wishes to Majdi, who became engaged last week; to Gabby, who became a grandfather to tiny little Avigail, and to Yochai, who celebrated his birthday last week.
May happiness and love shower our days, and may this week be a calm one!
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the rest of the Chubeza gang
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
We’re still short of tomatoes, but the winter vegetables are here in their glory to fill your boxes and soothe the tomato anxiety a bit. The tomatoes are coming soon!
Last Wednesday, a sweet potato problem arose. Evidently the rain, the dampness and the cold took their toll on some of our sweet potato stock, and the sorting process didn’t catch the faulty produce. For those of you who received rotting sweet potatoes, kindly inform us so that we can compensate you.
Our apologies for the mishap!
Monday: Curly lettuce/bok choy/mizuna, coriander/ mint (nana), slice of pumpkin, radishes, potatoes/carrots/tomatoes, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, arugula/mustard greens, beets/kohlrabi. Small boxes only: leeks.
Large box, in addition: Eggplant/bell peppers, celery, Thai beans/Jerusalem artichokes, fennel/ turnips.
Wednesday: Tomatoes, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, coriander/ mint (nana)/dill, fennel/ turnips/radishes, arugula/mustard greens, Curly lettuce/bok choy/tatsoi, beets/kohlrabi, Thai beans/potatoes/carrots, Small boxes only: leeks/garlic chive.
Large box, in addition: Eggplant/bell peppers, celery, Jerusalem artichokes, slice of pumpkin
And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products and goat dairy products too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. Our order system also features a detailed listing of the products and their cost. Make an order online now!