CSI: CSA – kohlrabi, a highly adaptable space octopus
August 21st, 2012
01:30 PM ET
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Stacy Cowley is CNNMoney's tech editor. She's in a complicated relationship with her CSA and explores the odd vegetables that show up in her haul in CSI: CSA. Previously, she discovered the weedy joys of purslane.

If you’ve got kohlrabi in your fridge, you’re probably in a CSA. I’ve never met a single person who has procured a kohlrabi in the wild*.

I’d certainly never run across one until my CSA started sticking them in its shares. With most new produce, I can at least take a guess at its likely texture and taste. With kohlrabi, I had absolutely no clue. Its appearance has famously been described by nutritionist Jonny Bowden as “a cross between an octopus and a space capsule."

Lacking any idea where to start, I hit the Internets. First step: Figuring out what to make. Kohlrabi turns out to be obscure but incredibly versatile - you can use it in pretty much anything that works well with root vegetables, but it will also stretch in unusual directions.

The most intriguing suggestion I hit was to make kohlrabi fries. The New York Times suggests flouring and frying; I went with an easier suggestion for slathering chopped kohlrabi rectangles in spices and baking them.

Which led to my favorite discovery about kohlrabi: It’s a natural single-serving. One kohlrabi portions out almost perfectly to a side dish. I love veggies that make it easy.

The next challenge was extracting the kohlrabi from its defensive shell.

I turned to YouTube for instructions, which turned out to be straightforward: Chop off the leafy top and break out the veggie peeler. I’ve drawn blood before trying to free squashes from their shells (butternut is my nemesis) and obliterated several parsnips trying to core and peel them, so I was happy to find that the wild-looking kohlrabi isn’t nearly so challenging. Its outer skin is soft and strips away easily.

My debut run with the kohlrabi was a hit. To me, the flavor is slightly sweet and turnip-like; my husband says they taste a bit like water chestnuts. In any case, we both loved them, and I started bartering swaps at the CSA pickup.

kohlrabi fries

In the past few weeks I’ve used my growing kohlrabi hoard in risotto (you can toss in both the actual kohlrabi and its greens), roasted them with garlic and olive oil, and made several more batches of “fries.” It’s supposed to be great in salads, but I like cooked kohlrabi so much that I haven’t yet experimented with it in the raw.

I’ve had a few disasters with my CSA veggie roulette. I’m not a big fan of fennel, I hate celery root and I turned my share of the herb anise hyssop into a pseudo-pet instead of a recipe. (Her name was Victoria. She lived almost an entire summer - longer than some of my childhood hamsters.) Kohlrabi, though, is a keeper. I’ll be bummed when the season ends and my space octopus goes back into hibernation until next year.

*By wild, I mean “on a supermarket shelf.”

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Filed under: CSA • CSI: CSA • Gardening


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soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Alien8

    I saw Kohlrabi warming up for Metallica back in '96. Helluva show.

    August 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Skin Bracer

      Ok. That made me laugh.
      Thanks. I needed that.

      August 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
      • Robert 'Canteloupe' Palmer

        Wasn't their hit record "Chop Me To Bits?"

        August 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  2. Tammy

    Kohlrabi is a veg from my childhood. It's great raw with salt but as an adult, I adore kohlrabi soup. It's very delicate and delicious.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • Canteloupe

      It's not true what they are saying about me. I didn't kill those people. It was a salmon named Ella.

      August 23, 2012 at 10:32 am |
      • Ella

        I'm not takin' the rap for you, Canteloupe. You're goin' DOWN.

        August 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
        • Zerik

          bhn ji in rachnaaon ki pranhssa ke liyen mere paas shbd hi nahin hai or tlaashne pr mil bhi nahi rahe hai fir bhi badhaai ..akhtar khan akela kota rajsthan

          December 22, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  3. Michele Hays @QuipsTravails

    Yup, Kohlrabi is readily available in our local european markets. I'm not so fond of the bulb (I don't mind it, but after all, it's just stem) but if you get them, treasure the leaves. Kohlrabli leaves have the mild flavor of Swiss Chard and the sturdiness of Kale or Collards – without either the bitterness nor the tendency to dissolve into an unrecognizable horror when cooked too long. They are an excellent green to add to soups and stews.

    August 22, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  4. Emily

    I've been eating Kohlrabi from the supermarket since I was a kid! We do exist!

    August 22, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  5. T Diemer

    Split the butternit squash, bake it, then scoop the pulp out. Its easy when its cooked.

    August 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  6. Canteloupe

    Nobody loves me now because I'm a murderer.

    August 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  7. Kim

    LOVE Kohlrabi! My family has been procuring it from the wild (supermarket) for years! Our favorite way to make it is in a cream sauce as a side dish, but it is great in soups, stews and just raw to snack on!

    August 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  8. inherchucks

    This looks like a delicious way to enjoy kohlrabi!

    I would love to convert you to a fennel lover. Truth be told, I am not the biggest fennel lover myself but I have found a way to make it that will rock your world...really! Try this...http://inherchucks.com/2011/12/02/braised-pork-with-orange-and-fennel/. Good luck :)

    August 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Canteloupe

      Convert us? What, you got fifty shades of fennel?

      August 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
      • inherchucks

        Something like that!

        August 23, 2012 at 1:45 am |
        • Fennel

          I love being trussed up with meat.

          August 23, 2012 at 10:33 am |
        • inherchucks

          Not for the weak at heart :)

          August 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
      • Bruna

        Hey Dawn, I made this dish while experimenting with korbhali and really liked it. I subbed garam masala for the curry powder, but enjoyed the lightness paired with the earthiness of the Indian spices. Good idea to use the korbhali greens, too! :)

        December 25, 2012 at 3:27 am |
  9. Pcoket Rocket

    So...umm you actually eat these things?! I've been using them as 8utt plugs for the past decade. I guess I'll taste the next one before I use it.

    August 22, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Canteloupe

      I got yer 8utt plug right here, sailor.

      August 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  10. D

    My grandma has been growing calrabi in her gardern for 50 years. We always just eat it raw like horseradish or green onions. You peel the calarabi and slice it into smaller pieces and store in water to preserve the texture. Pour a small amount of salt into your hand, dip the calarabi in and chow down. Your burps will be about as bad as horse radish burps so be forewarned. Space octopus, pshh caught my attention I guess.

    August 22, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  11. qbananita

    It would have been so much more informative if the author included the fact that kohlrabi is a swollen stem, and is a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. The taste actually skews towards those vegetables more than the ones mentioned (tastes like mild broccoli stem or cabbage heart). They are not rare in the upper Midwest.

    August 22, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • Cold Robbie

      Boy, is my stem ever swollen.

      August 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  12. u500insulin

    My dad has grown these in his garden for years. These are great raw. Taste like cabbage. My dad is so creative with vegetables, and has such a good green thumb, he'll slice them (turnips too), get a cookie cutter, make shapes, and display these great tasting veggies in shapes on a plate. Kids love them! Adults too. His kohlrabi are always moist and delicious.

    August 22, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Pattie

      Yup, love it raw. Peel it, slice it and eat it. Been eating it straight out of the garden my whole life. It was the only thing in our garden my Dad took care of – and did it into his 80's. It's partially a German thing, I think.

      August 22, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  13. GreenThumb

    It's been a record year for Kohlrabi here in Oregon. They're selling 7 pounders at all the Farmers Markets.

    August 21, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • moribundman

      Large kohlrabi tends to taste bad. Small ones are much more tender with better taste. Kohlrabi great raw, boiled, steamed, and in stews.

      August 22, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Robert 'Canteloupe' Palmer

      I thought you had to throw them back if they were over six pounds.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  14. Eric

    Thanks for the cooking ideas. We grew up with these in the garden (Czech family through and through). I fondly recall walking out to the garden with a paring knife and a salt shaker for a Special K snack. Grocery is okay in a pinch, but nothing quite like fresh from the ground. Cheers!

    August 21, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  15. beaverEater

    Man, the kohlrabi in the picture look awful. She should find a better CSA... Space vegetable? I've had them numerous times and I see them at the asian/indian markets every week. Why would anyone pay someone to write articles like this, boggles my mind. What a dummy.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • beaverEaterFeelsBad

      ok, that was uncalled for and I'm just going to go ahead and apologize. the article was well-intentioned, I just felt snubbed by her characterizing the vegetable as somehow bizarre and let it get the better of me. Yes, ridiculous. The article was enjoyable after getting past that and now I feel like a jerk.

      August 21, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
      • Troll Alert

        <<>>

        "We've zeroed in on a troll, sir."

        August 22, 2012 at 7:28 am |
        • Yossarian

          Trolls don't typically apologize. Troll Alert has been sent back for recalibration.

          August 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
        • Canteloupe

          Yeah, when they come back later and modify their opinions, we call that a legitimate comment. Stand down, Seal Team Six.

          August 23, 2012 at 9:59 am |
      • JW Booth

        No, it isn't uncalled for. This article is just stupid. Just because the "Tech" editor of CNN Money has never dealt with Kohlrabi is no reason to allow her to write an article about food. Get some better writers and we won't have all this dreck out there posing as news.

        August 23, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
        • Kohlrabi

          Bah, you couldn't deal with me either, and I'd like to see you try. Actors are all full of hot air.

          August 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  16. SUAMW

    Cook it? It's great raw! I would eat one while coming back from the clover fields with my grandfather.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  17. Veggie Lover

    I thought – Kashmiri people ( Northern part of India) were the only people who ate'em. But yes we love it and taste is amazing. It needs to be cooked in particualar way to really feel the taste. One quick is- cut it into little or med size squares and cook'em wih potatoes/tomatoes. Add some red chilly powder to tomatoe paste. Let it cook for 25-30 mts on med heat. Hmmmm YUMMY IN MY TUMMY. You will love it. Eat with white rice.

    Enjoy.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  18. ngc1300

    My Dad's side of the family are Slovak, and Grandma and Dad always had it in their gardens. I like it raw with a little salt, and the pickled stuff my Granny made (with, if I recall correctly, onions and peppers) was to die for. I should probably grow some next year, or get to a CSA, because my local store wants $3/lb. for wilty stuff, when you can even get it.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  19. plantman

    Stacy your a Moron. how old are you 1 hour. Just fall off the turnip truck, fool. CSA my ass, in the weeds.... again Moron...peace....out....lol. white fool.... get an education Stacy!

    August 21, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Techsupport

      Damn, maybe you could get some class.

      August 21, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • chibidw

      A lecture on getting an education from an obvious example of public school system detritus. It would be sad if it wasn't so amusing.

      (Hint: Please learn the appropriate usage of "your" and "you're".)

      August 22, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Canteloupe

      Eat me, plantman,

      August 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  20. Charles

    I buy them at the local super market. As a member of the brassica family they are very healthy. Try Kohlrabi au gratin...just like au gratin potatoes. My kids also like them raw cut up...just like carrot sticks.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  21. Klaus

    I'm 62 years old and have been eating kohlrabi for 60 years. My mom grows them every year. She cooks them in a white sauce. "AWSOME". Also ate them right out of the garden.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • bunbytes

      That's how my German mother always made them. Yum.

      August 22, 2012 at 1:55 am |
  22. mimi

    We grow them every summer – can't get any better than raw slices, sprinkled with salt!

    August 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  23. MJ

    Raw is the best or sauted with little olive oil, salt and pepper.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  24. K

    Seriously? We buy kohlrabi at the supermarket all the time. We eat it raw as a garnish next to a main dish, or sometimes in salads or, more rarely, roasted.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  25. Dale in Milwaukee

    LOVE the stuff and grow it every year. Cut up 50/50 mix of kohlrabi and carrots into smallish pieces (about the size of two pieces of trident) and boil in lightly salted water until nearly tender. Then make a simple sauce out of some of the veggie boil water by making a roux. (Melt tablespoon or so of butter in a wide saucepan, sprinkle with flour, cook a minute or so, then add veggies plus a cup or two of cooking liquid. Boil until sauce thickens.) Salt (if not alreday salty enough) and pepper to taste. Simple, homey comfort....and dang delicious! Definite taste of my childhood summers...

    August 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • AG

      Kohlrabi and carrots are a wonderful pairing. Just a little butter, salt and pepper is all you need.

      Also, I've always thought kohlrabi was the essential ingredient in making the perfect homemade chicken soup. Chicken carcass, an onion, a carrot, some celery, parsley, and kohlrabi. It just adds that extra little flavor that makes it just like my grandma's.

      Unfortunately, if I ever do see it in the store here, it's expensive and completly overgrown. Large kohlrabi are okay for flavoring, but the texture is awful. I've grown it in the garden sometimes, but the deer like it too much.

      August 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  26. Louisa

    I'd just peel it and eat it raw. It's delicious.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Pocket Pool

      Mmmm...Pickled peed kohlrabi with a side of wasabi!

      August 22, 2012 at 8:42 am |
      • Cold Robbie

        Dang, who peed in the kohrabi?

        August 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  27. bozobub

    There is no other way to pick any vegetable, but raw.

    August 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • t3chsupport

      lol, depends on the heat where you live. I wouldn't be surprised to see some roasted tomatoes on the vine this year.

      August 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  28. Paula

    We used to grow this in our garden when I was a kid! My dad and I would pick them, put them in the fridge for a couple hours, then slice and eat them raw with a smidge of salt. I've never cooked it, but I might just try it steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper after reading this story.

    August 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • M

      That's the best way to eat them, in my opinion.

      August 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
      • iclod

        Same here, we used to grow them in our garden as a kid. Now they are expensive and not as easily found. Loved to eat 'em raw with a little salt.

        August 21, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  29. Albert Alligator

    I allus gits the cold robbies when I eat strange vegetables.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  30. Canteloupe

    Yeah, but has it killed anyone like I have? I'm a made man. Don't cross me.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Green Onions

      I've killed more people than you have, and I have my own hit song. Bite me.

      August 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
      • Ogofor

        wango ivan fermboh Posted on I wish to study in ctoruny in the 2011/2012 academy school year.I am a Cameroonian at the end of my bachelor degree program in mathematics and i wish to study computer engineering as my master program.

        December 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  31. yummyyummyschlurp

    kohlrabi is delicious. And easy to find, cheaply! Celery root, if you remove the skin, use it with potatoes – you cut the starch of mashed potatoes in half (depending on how much celery root you use) and get a great, fresh flavor and texture in return. Fennel is delicious braised, it melts in your mouth, and it's also nice in a slaw. Provided it's not young or small fennel, which has a rather unpleasant woodiness to it. Love me some CSA! (and my garden!)

    August 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Claas

      I guess only here in the USA people don't know how to eat it. Deep frying is the worst you can do. With salt potatoes a white flour and vegetable bulion souce and a fried egg you have typical German farmers dish. Simple but good.

      August 21, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  32. Cerri

    Mmm!! Kohlrabi! My mom grows it in her garden and we make a killer kohlrabi soup. Love it!

    August 21, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  33. k

    for the salad, try pickling it raw.

    August 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
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