#1 Most Feared: The Gentle Giant, Kohlrabi

'Kossak' kohlrabi; 8 lbs. of deliciousness!

‘Kossak’ kohlrabi; 8 lbs. of deliciousness!

What is it about kohlrabi that is so intimidating to so many people?  I know that it is the single most feared vegetable among our members (survey says!), but everyone that actually tastes it finds themselves very pleasantly surprised!

Kohlrabi are very patient.  They will wait in your refrigerator in fine condition, changing very little as the months drag on, for you to work up the courage to peek inside and be…pleasantly surprised.  Just yesterday, we had a visit from a winter share member, who upon seeing me with a large kohlrabi in hand on its way to the chopping block, confessed that he recalled seeing one somewhere in his home recently; fridge or garage perhaps, that he had received in his last winter share delivery box.  “What do you do with those?”  he asked.

“Well, you could try the recipes in your newsletter, or, here,” (I sliced off a nice piece and removed the skin) “just try this”.  I was happy to hear him say that it had a similar effect to eating a piece of watermelon in summer.  “Cool, juicy and refreshing!”

It’s true.  They are like cutting into a waterfall, (okay, not quite), but they are juicy.  They are very mild tasting, and every bit as satisfying to nibble on as raw carrots can be!  If you like to have raw fresh veggies as a snack, kohlrabi should not be overlooked.  If ever there was a case for not “judging a book by its cover”, kohlrabi is at the top of the stack. We only grow and send these out for our winter CSA shares and winter markets.

It is a common assumption with many people that the huge kohlrabi’s that shows up at fall farmers market stands are “woody” on the inside and therefore inedible.  The large kohlrabi is really just a variety that is intended to grow to that size.  There are the smaller green or purple varieties that you see most often in the supermarkets and then there are the storage varieties that you don’t see in the supermarkets.   Our favorite is ‘Kossak’, a storage variety that can grow to sizes as big as 8 lbs, as the one in the picture did, without losing any of its quality.  The storage varieties are one of the best vegetables to just have on hand and slice off what you need for raw snacking, salad, or as an addition to a cooked meal and then wrap what remains of it for future use. You can also do this with cabbage, celeriac, and Daikon.  And with a large kohlrabi, you can be sure that you have enough to create most kohlrabi recipes!

So what DO you do with them besides eating them raw? You can add them to just about anything.  (Maybe not desert.)  Not just to do something with them, but because they are very tasty.  Use them as a substitute for, or along with broccoli or cauliflower in stir-fry’s or soups.  Their flavor and texture is similar, but a little milder flavored. Cut them into cubes, slices or matchsticks. They are delicious cut into small cubes for an ingredient in a pasta salad or my favorite: tabbouleh.  Their crisp juiciness makes them a good substitute for diced cucumber in that dish! You can even pickle or ferment them as you would cucumbers.

As for last night’s melon-sized kohlrabi, I had no plan to start with, really.  It grew from my husband suggesting that we make something with the nice bacon that a friend had brought over for us.  He was probably thinking of something more on the lines of a BLT, or something equally mouth-watering, but I had a hankering for kohlrabi, since I had just returned from delivering some to a local restaurant.  Yes, bacon and kohlrabi it would be.

Parsnips, kohlrabi, and carrots, cut for stir-fry

Parsnips, kohlrabi, and carrots, cut for stir-fry

I had grabbed a few other vegetables from storage on my way into the house and laid them all out on the counter, and then a fairly quick meal was born.  It was not too bad!  It made a fine meal for the 2 of us and the leftovers were good for lunch the next day.  I only used ¼ of the kohlrabi, and part of that was even saved for snacking on the next day with some carrot sticks.  I loosely wrapped the remainder and put it in the fridge for another day.   You get a LOT of mileage out of these large kohlrabis!

Note: If I make this dish again, I might leave out the parsnips, mainly because the texture is so unlike the other vegetables, and their flavor was a little too bold for this dish, but if you love parsnips, by all means, use them! The bacon was good, but omitting it would not really affect the dish that much. (Oh, I suggest that matchstick veggies should be smaller than they are in the picture.)

Sautéed Winter Vegetables with Pasta,  Gorgonzola and Bacon

1 med. onion, cut into vertical strips2 cloves garlic, minced1 med. Delicata squash

2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks

¼ (or 2 cups) large Kohlrabi, trimmed and cut into matchsticks

2 parsnips, cut into matchsticks

4 slices nitrate-free bacon, cooked until crispy

Pinch nutmeg½ tsp ground gingerDash cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper

2 Tbs. tamari

2 Tbs. olive oil

¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

½ lb. good quality, flat egg noodles, cooked

Prepare vegetables.  Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Cut in half crosswise and then cut sections into matchstick strips.  In a heavy skillet, sauté the onion in oil over low heat until clear.  Add garlic and sauté for a minute or 2.  Add spices and stir.  Add squash and stir into onions.  Cover and let the squash cook and steam for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is almost fork tender.  You may need to add a few Tablespoons of water to prevent them from burning.  Add remaining vegetables and tamari.  Cover and cook, adding more water if necessary, until vegetables are crisp-tender.  Remove from heat and toss with noodles, crumbled bacon, and cheese.  Serve.

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