Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 1997

KOHLRABI IS WORTH EXPLORING

June 11, 1997

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In my quest to be a worldly vegetable gardener, I expanded my efforts this year to grow things I'd never planted before and, in some cases, which I'd never eaten before either.

Kohlrabi is the first of my 1997 experiments to reach maturity and I began harvesting it last week. I heartily recommend this odd-looking brassica to every veggie grower, if only to give visitors to your garden reason to point and say, ``Ooh, what's that thing?''

Non-gardeners or growers who don't want to commit garden space to a vegetable they've never eaten will be able to find kohlrabi bulbs in the more adventurous produce departments in Lawrence. It's a staple of the northern and eastern European diet and does sell in this university community.

The kohlrabi bulb is actually the plant's swollen stem and it's often referred to as an above-ground turnip. The leaves, very similar in appearance to broccoli's, shoot off the bulb on slender stems, and as a result kohlrabi is often likened in gardening literature to Sputnik.

The bulbs you'll find in supermarkets probably will have the leaves trimmed away. Several cookbooks suggested saving the leaves and cooking them, however I found them to be a tougher green than, say, spinach or chard and predict they would have limited appeal.

The bulbs are harvested when they're no more than 2 inches in diameter. The tough outer skin is peeled away and the flesh -- which should be firm and crisp -- then may be sliced, diced, chopped, shredded or julienned.

Raw kohlrabi tastes very much like sweet, mild cabbage. I grew a variety called Kolpak and didn't detect the edge that a turnip flavor would impart.

Sticks of raw kohlrabi may be added to a vegetable dip tray or strips of it may be added to a salad.

To cook kohlrabi, most cookbooks recommend dicing or julienning the peeled bulb and steaming it, then serving it with butter and perhaps some chopped parsley.

To initiate my family into the delights of eating kohlrabi, I julienned it and sauteed it in butter and a bit of minced garlic, and seasoned it with salt and ground pepper. The flavor becomes milder and sweeter as it cooks and softens; when it's done is a matter of preference for flavor and texture.

I've also come across suggestions to season kohlrabi with lemon juice or Parmesan cheese.

I found kohlrabi to be an interesting veggie that I'd like to experiment with. My husband, who tends to believe that every cole or root crop tastes like a turnip, gave kohlrabi a rating of five on a scale of 10. However, kohlrabi passed the real test at my house with flying colors: The finicky teen-ager went back for seconds.

Kohlrabi is amazingly easy to grow. I set out 8-week-old transplants in mid-March and watered only moderately. Kohlrabi matures earlier than early cabbage and is a more reliable producer in this climate than broccoli.

The Kolpak variety I grew was light green. Kohlrabi also comes in purple varieties, which reportedly taste pretty much the same.

The following recipe is from Shepherd and Raboff's ``More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden.''

Kohlrabi and Carrot Slaw

1epper. The flavor becomes milder and sweeter as it cooks and softens; when it's done is a matter of preference for flavor and texture.

I've also come across suggestions to season kohlrabi with lemon juice or Parmesan cheese.

I found kohlrabi to be an interesting veggie that I'd like to experiment with. My husband, who tends to believe that every cole or root crop tastes like a turnip, gave kohlrabi a rating of five on a scale of 10. However, kohlrabi passed the real test at my house with flying colors: The finicky teen-ager went back for seconds.

Kohlrabi is amazingly easy to grow. I set out 8-week-old transplants in mid-March and watered only moderately. Kohlrabi matures earlier than early cabbage and is a more reliable producer in this climate than

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