Strange Veggies: Kohlrabi

How many times have you gone to an ethnic restaurant with friends and ended up being the only one to order something truly ethnic? Nowadays even the most ardent ethnic restaurants boast a few watered downed traditional dishes reeking of standard American inspiration. Ever notice how many Chinese places offer fried chicken wings? Or sushi joints that sell Philadelphia rolls (sushi made with cream cheese and smoked salmon)?

From my perspective it seems like most people in this country consider the four basic food groups to be cheeseburgers, pizza, breakfast cereal, and General Tso’s Chicken. And beyond that everything else is just hippie, vegan, or health-nut food. So could you imagine serving these yokels a steaming plate of Kohlrabi?

Kohlrabi? Relax. I suspect that even many of you health-nuts, vegans, and hippies out there don’t know what it is either. I didn’t, and I write for a nutrition blog for crying out loud! In fact, I only discovered Kohlrabi a few weeks ago. Remember the Alaskan farmer growing the giant produce?

And that’s precisely what this new series is all about, introducing Freaky Fruits and Strange Veggies. From time to time DiseaseProof will examine an unusual fruit or vegetable that many people have never heard of, let alone, actually eaten. Now if you haven’t figured it out by now, Kohlrabi is first on the menu.

So what is Kohlrabi? It’d certainly make a cool name for a rapper, but according to Vegetarians in Paradise it is an often misunderstood vegetable:
For those unfamiliar with this jewel of a vegetable, its appearance somewhat resembles a hot air balloon. Picture the turnip-shaped globe as the passenger section; its multiple stems that sprout from all parts of its globular form resemble the many vertical ropes, and the deep green leaves at the top represent the parachute. Kohlrabi is often mistakenly referred to as a root vegetable, but in fact it grows just above ground, forming a unique, turnip-shaped swelling at the base of the stem.
It’s pretty easy to see how it can be confused for a root veggie. They look just like a bunch of green beets. Check out this picture from Potomac Vegetable Farms:

Here’s an interesting factoid, Growing Taste points out that Kohlrabi is a member of the Cruciferae family. And we all now how Dr. Fuhrman feels about cruciferous vegetables like broccoli raab and kale. From "A Symphony of Phytonutrients" from Cruciferous Vegetables:
While fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients, the consumption of vegetables is more helpful in reducing cancer because they contain much higher amounts of cancer-protective compounds--especially green vegetables. Among these green vegetables, the cruciferous family has demonstrated the most dramatic protection against cancer. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, collards, arugala, watercress, and cabbage) contain a symphony of phytonutrients with potent anti-cancer effects.
And as you’ll see, Kohlrabi is certainly no slouch when it comes to nutrient-density. Wikipedia has more about:
Kohlrabi can be eaten raw as well as cooked. The low-calorie plant is high in dietary fibers and contains the dietary minerals selenium, folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and copper.
Now Kohlrabi must be good, just check out this Black Lab chowing down on some:

If that dog could talk, what would he say? "Ruff, ruff!" Yeah, its probably a waste of time to ask a dog what Kohlrabi tastes like, but actually, what does Kohlrabi taste like? Let’s check back with Vegetarians in Paradise's to find out:
Of kohlrabi's two varieties the purple globe is sweeter and tastier than the apple-green. Both have a pale green, almost ivory colored, flesh inside. While the entire vegetable is edible raw or cooked, the small, young kohlrabi, about 1 1/2" to 2" in diameter, is ideal for its flavor and texture.

Shoppers should choose small kohlrabi with its edible skin rather than the giant size with its woody, fibrous texture and inedible outer layer. The larger globes definitely need to be peeled. Kohlrabi is available year round with its peak season and sweetest flavor in spring through early summer
Okay, here’s a few more links to help quell your newfound Kohlrabi obsession:
So there you have it, the first installment of this new DiseaseProof series. Remember, keep your eyes peeled, freaky fruits and strange veggies are all around us. You never know when one might pop up. Oh, and if you’ve got an interesting Kohlrabi story we’d love to hear about it. Just make a comment or email us at
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Comments (5) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Kathy P - February 26, 2007 2:36 PM

It would be great to include some Fuhrman friendly recipies with these installments.

Pauline meinecke - August 31, 2007 2:19 AM

I have been eating kohlrabi since i was a kid. My grandma cooked it for me and now i cook for myself and my family. I've never met anyone outside my family who has even heard of it. I find this very strange. What the hell! Why has no one else eaten it throughout their lives!?

JJ - October 10, 2008 4:21 PM

Recipes? Cook? What a waste! I harvest my green Sputniks at tennis-ball size, and then peel and slice "cookies" into whatever sandwich I'm having for lunch that day.

Spyder - November 27, 2008 2:00 PM

My mom uses this like a potato in minestrone - she uses potatoes AND kohlrabi. Peas are good too! Delicious. I bought some this week and will be making some good minestrone with it later today! YUM!

tommy lynch - June 11, 2010 3:34 AM

can you eat the leaves of the kohl rabi

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