Kohlwha? I know. ‘Tis far from fancypants veggies like these we were reared. Not very popular, this much neglected veg is more at home in Germanic kitchens. Physically resembling the unplanned love child of a small turnip and a beetroot, Kohlrabi has a mild cabbagy taste with a fresh crunchy texture not unlike a radish. So despite its exotic name it does have a familiar appeal to the Irish palette.
I love it because it is easy to grow – happy to be left alone and quick to mature. For those very reasons it is a terrific starter plant for first-time veggie growers. It also likes cooler temperatures, bringing you out into your veg patch when there is not much else to be had. Harvest them when they are about the size of a medium sized apple as they get woody if they are too large. You can eat the young leaves too. After peeling away the outer skin of the bulb (it’s actually a swollen stem) you can chop it into sticks to stir-fry or to steam. They are also tasty when baked. Personally, I prefer to eat them raw. I use a potato peeler to slice the vegetable mega thinly. Then drizzle some olive oil over the slivers, toss on a few thyme leaves and add a handful of sliced hard goats cheese with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Hugh F. Whittingstall gives it an air of sophisication by calling his recipe Kohlrabi Carpaccio*. Now that really is fancypants!
So if you have never sown any vegetables for your table this is one that will lure you in. Aim to get your seeds in by early spring. Alternatively, ask your local food producer for some Kohlrabi and test them out for tastiness.
*Incidently, this dish works really well as a starter course for a meal, making Kohlrabi a great starter veg in every sense!