KOHLRABI: The Sputnik Vegetable
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite. It was called Sputnik, and it looked a lot like a kohlrabi.
Now, with so few people familiar with kohlrabi, the vegetable is often described as looking a lot like Sputnik, which is not far from the truth. The flattened globe rests just above the surface of the earth, and long stems shoot up from the curved sides as well as from the top, giving it a spiky space-age look.
Its unique shape is clearly displayed because the leaves don't begin until a foot or so above the pale green or vibrant purple orb. If you find kohlrabi in the store, its foliage will have been removed, so be sure and buy from a local farmer and you'll get two vegetables for the price of one - the crunchy bulbous stem, and the leaves, which can be used as you would kale or any other cooking green.
Although the outside color of kohlrabi depends on the variety, the inside is always the same-crisp white flesh with a clean, mild taste. Kohlrabi is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, and also contains vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium and copper.The kohlrabi leaves are rich in vitamin A, so don't forget to sauté them or use them into a soup or stir fry.
To prepare kohlrabi, cut off the stems and leaves and set them aside to use later. Then cut the top and the root section off the kohlrabi, and work your way around with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Make sure you remove the skin and the slightly fibrous layer just below.
After it's peeled, I often eat kohlrabi as-is, just like an apple. Or you can cut it into wedges or matchsticks, and have it as part of a raw vegetable tray, with or without a sprinkle of salt, a light vinaigrette, or a veggie dip.
Summer is not kind to kohlrabi, turning it woody and tough, so get some now or you'll miss out on one of late spring's crunchiest delights. These little Sputniks might just orbit your kitchen and rock your world.
2 large or 4 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut in half, and then into matchsticks or thin half-moon slices (alternatively, grate into a slaw)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp mayonnaise or olive oil, if needed to thin the yogurt
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
Dash of salt, pepper, and sugar, to taste
Dash of hot sauce or sprinkle with chili powder (optional)
Put all the ingredients together in a big bowl and toss until well coated. Eat on a hot day and cool down! This is also great on any kind of sandwich.
Serves 2 as a side dish
The best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local community farmer. To locate the farmers' market or CSA nearest you, or visit www.localharvest.org.
Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Article by Terra Brockman, photo by Cara Cummings.