If you’re like me, there’s a good chance you didn’t grow up eating kohlrabi. But I bet you know kohlrabi’s cousins — cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Kohlrabi, popular in Europe for years, is now trending as a superfood across the U.S. In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this versatile, low carbohydrate vegetable.
What Is It?
Like it’s cousin’s, kohlrabi is a member of the Brassicaceae or cabbage family. Kohlrabi’s name originates from the Germanic words Kohl meaning cabbage and Rabi, meaning turnip. It has a round, knobby bulbous stem with long leafy greens growing directly from the stem. Often thought of as a root vegetable, kohlrabi grows above the ground. Although kohlrabi leaves are edible, most people eat the pale green, white interior of the bulb.
Kohlrabi is packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants vitamins A and C, and a compound called glucosinolates. Researchers characterize glucosinolates as defense compounds because of their ability to fight cancer.
Kohlrabi is low in sodium and loaded with potassium to help keep your heart, blood pressure, and nervous system healthy. It is also diabetes-friendly. Kohlrabi’s high fiber and low carbohydrate content help support healthy blood glucose—also known as blood sugar levels.
Taste and Flavor
Kohlrabi is a very versatile vegetable that tastes as good raw as it does when cooked. Raw kohlrabi is crunchy with a mildly peppery taste, much like a radish. When cooked, it has a sweeter taste similar to turnips and parsnips. Although you’ll find both green and purple varieties of kohlrabi in stores, they all taste the same.
Buying and Storage
Typically available at farmers’ markets, kohlrabi can be found in stores year-round. Peak growing season is early fall through spring. When buying kohlrabi, look for firm, solid bulbs without cracks or bruises. They should be heavy for size. Unpeeled bulbs can be refrigerated in your crisper drawer for about two weeks. Washed Kohlrabi leaves, wrapped in paper towels, can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
How to Prepare
There is no waste when it comes to kohlrabi. You can eat the whole vegetable. Cook kohlrabi leaves the same way you would cook kale or collard greens. Cut a thin slice off the bottom, so the bulb sits flat. Then use a vegetable peeler to peel off the tough outer skin.Slice into quarters lengthwise then cut out the core from each piece. Voila! You’re ready to dice, slice, shred or shave as your recipe requires.
Shred the stems for slaws, salads, or fritters. Get maximum health benefits by stir-frying, steaming, or microwaving kohlrabi. Add them to soups, stews, roasts, and vegetable stir-fries.Steamed stems can be added to omelets, pasta dishes, risotto, empanadas, or calzones.
Kohlrabi can be baked, like home fries, without all the carbs. Braised or roasted kohlrabi can bestuffed with other vegetables and meat.
What to Serve It With
Kohlrabi pairs well with a variety of low carb, low-calorie vegetablessuch as cabbage, broccoli, spinach, turnips, and herbs and spices like mustard, cilantro, dill,garlic, and mint.
An award-winning registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of the Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World; The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes.