Crop of the week: Kohlrabi
• Kohlrabi is a Yuma-area specialty crop grown in limited amounts. The crop is direct-seeded, and can withstand even severe frosts or freezes. Once started, kohlrabi is said to grow best at a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees and will mature in approximately seven to eight weeks.
• Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea) is a form of cabbage and a member of the mustard family. Despite the name, it is not a root vegetable but rather a fleshy bulbous stem grown just above the ground.
• Kohlrabi is of European origin and popular in Germany, Russia and Hungary. Kohlrabi found its way into Northern India in the 1600s, where it soon became a dietary staple. More recently, kohlrabi has become an established vegetable in China and Africa.
• Kohlrabi's true origin is unclear, but it was already known by the 1st century A.D., for Pliny the Elder mentions a Corinthian turnip, which from its described growing habits is almost certainly kohlrabi. Apicius, who wrote the oldest known cookbook on cooking and dining in imperial Rome, also mentions the vegetable in his recipes.
• This bulb-stemmed member of the cabbage family is not a cross between cabbage and turnips as some may think. This incorrect assumption has been perpetuated by the German name: “kohl” meaning cabbage and “rabi” meaning turnip.
• There are both green- and purple-skinned types; both have creamy white flesh. Kohlrabi may look like a turnip, but its taste is very different, with a sweet, peppery, broccoli/cucumber flavor and crisp texture.
• Kohlrabi is excellent raw by itself and in salads. It may also be steamed, stir fried, braised or stuffed. The cooked leaves have a collard-like flavor.
• Although it has definitive Eastern European culinary origins and a long culinary history in Asia, kohlrabi has never been a largely purposeful vegetable in America outside of immigrant communities.
• Cut a kohlrabi in half. The kohlrabi should be solid all the way through, with no spongy or brown spots. Cut these out if you have them, leaving only the firm bulb intact.
• Smaller kohlrabi are the sweetest and most tender. Bulbs much bigger than the size of a tennis ball won't be as tasty and often have a pithy flesh. Also, they should be used when the edible portion are 2 to 3 inches in diameter, before they become hard or bitter.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 726-3904.