Kohlrabi – a friendly alien


Julie French, from the Montmorency Community Group, cooks with less popular or familiar veggies and fruit. Here she discusses how to use and cook kohlrabi. See her other articles in the right hand sidebar.

If Julie’s article inspires you to want to eat kohlrabi, you might be interested in Robin Gale-Baker’s article on our website about how to grow kohlrabi.

The first time that I saw kohlrabi it looked to me like a small alien spaceship, a round purple bulb supported on a thin stalk, with thinner stems growing out and up from the sides of the bulb itself. The word kohlrabi comes from the German for cabbage ‘kohl’ and broccoli ‘rabi’ and it tastes a little like peeled broccoli stalks. Best used when no bigger than a tennis ball, this strange looking vegetable can be either purple or pale green. It’s nutritious, low in calories and high in vitamin C.

You can buy kohrabis at Thriving Foods Farm’s stall at Eltham Farmers’ Market and other markets.

Preparation is simple – trim away all the stalks and peel thinly making sure to remove any woody bits near the base of the side stalks. The simplest way to use kohlrabi is to steam it and then toss it in butter or olive oil, fresh parsley and lemon juice. It can be roasted – try it with garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese or make a gratin. It can also be eaten raw – add it to coleslaw, or use in a Thai salad instead of green papaya (see recipe for som tum below). I’ve also added it to cabbage when making sauerkraut, and it can be an ingredient in kimchi.

Kohlrabi and chickpea soup (by Stephanie Alexander)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
200g kohlrabi peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
200g tinned chickpeas, drained
200g ripe tomatoes, cut into 1cm cubes
1 tablespoon tomato paste 3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
⅓ cup thinly sliced coriander or chopped flat leaf parsley, to serve

Dry roast cumin and coriander seeds separately over medium heat till fragrant. Tip into a mortar and pestle with the chilli flakes and grind to a fine powder. Mix in turmeric.

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and fry the spices for 1 minute. Tip in kohlrabi and saute, stirring for a minute or so. Add all remaining ingredients (except herbs) and bring to simmering point. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until kohlrabi is tender. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Ladle into bowls and scatter with the fresh herbs.

Serves 4.

Buttery roasted kohlrabi (by Yotam Ottolenghi)

3 tablespoons olive oil
60 g unsalted butter, cut into 2 cm cubes
2 red chillis, roughly chopped, seeds and all
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
5 g basil stalks
5 g oregano sprigs
850 g kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 25 mm squares
400 g cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper

To serve: 2 teaspoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons double cream, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat oven to 190 C. Add all the ingredients in the first list to a large, 40 cm x 38 cm parchment-lined tray with a teaspoon of salt and plenty of ground black pepper, and mix very well.

Roast for 25 minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 220 C, stir the vegetables well and continue to roast for 30 minutes, stirring again halfway through. Discard the herb stalks.

Transfer everything to a platter. Drizzle over the lime juice, then finish with the cream, oil and parsley.

Som tum with kohlrabi (by Duang Tengtrirat)

2 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut into matchsticks
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 long red chillis (or more if you like spicy)
3 cherry tomatoes, halved
a small handful of green beans, cut into 2cm lengths
¼ cup roasted peanuts
pinch of coconut sugar (optional)
1-2 teaspoons tamarind pulp (or lemon juice)
juice of 1-2 limes
soy sauce to taste

In a mortar and pestle, lightly crush the garlic and chilli with a little salt. Add the green beans and bruise, then the tomatoes and lightly bruise to release the juice. Add a good dash of soy sauce, the sugar, tamarind and lime juice. Taste and adjust.

Add the kohlrabi and use a spoon to mix it in well.

Add the peanuts and serve.

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