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Friday, October 28, 2011


Kohlrabi, like celeriac, isn’t exactly the most attractive vegetable but it deserves to be more popular than it is in the USA and Britain. Its origins are a little obscure, and some say that the first documented description of this vegetable was written by a European botanist in 1554. This may be so, but Pliny wrote about a vegetable that he called “rapa” in the 1st century AD. He also wrote about the turnip, which he called “napa.” During the year I spent in Italy I recall my boss being ecstatic when she could have kohlrabi on her pizza, she told me that this was grown in southern Italy, and was a delicacy in the region I was living in. This was cavoli rapa.
  What is undeniable is that kohlrabi was developed from the wild cabbage as was broccoli, brussel sprouts, turnips, red cabbage, kale, head cabbages and other Brassica family members. It was selected from cabbages that had good stems, and it is peculiar as it grows above ground, with its roots under the soil. Its name comes from the German Kohl for cabbage and rabi or rape for turnip, so it means cabbage turnip.
  Kohlrabi could have been spread throughout Europe by the Romans, but it might have been one of those crops that they kept to themselves. Whatever the case, it seems that this was developed in Germany and northern Europe and gained popularity in the 16th century. It is said that it tastes better after a frost, when it has been bletted, like sloes, for example. It has a taste which is sweeter than most turnips, and is reminiscent of a broccoli stem or perhaps white cabbage.
  You can eat this raw in salads, if it is sliced thinly or cooked (thinly sliced on pizzas as my Italian boss liked it), as a vegetable steamed, boiled and mashed or stir fried, in sesame oil. You can also eat the green leaves which are rich in vitamin A and carotenes, and these young tops can be cooked like spinach or used to make saag. They can be substituted for kale or collard greens too.
  Kohlrabi contains hardly any fat, is low in calories and has no cholesterol, making it ideal for people on a weight-loss diet. It contains more than the daily recommended dose of vitamin C per serving and also is rich in potassium. It also contains Omega-3 and-6 fatty acids, the minerals selenium, sodium (not much), manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorous and 11 amino acids. Vitamin A is also present in both the leaves and the vegetable.
  Kohlrabi contains isothiocyanate which is believed to help convert oestrogen in the body, and which seems to create a barrier against hormones associated with prostate and breast cancers.
  It is one of those unprepossessing vegetables that you can easily pass by in the supermarket, but it is very easy to prepare, and often, if it is young and fresh, doesn’t need peeling. Only peel the woody ones, and add them to soups and stews. Below is a simple Italian recipe to start you off on your acquaintance with this underused veggie.

Kohlrabi, cubed
olive oil
fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Boil or steam cubed kohlrabi until tender – try it after 10 mins.
Drain and dry on absorbent paper, then dress with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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