Environmental Nutrition: Kohlrabi, the wimpy cabbage

Caroline Kaufman
Environmental Nutrition
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With a taste similar to a combination of cucumber and mild broccoli, kholrabi has a more subtle flavor than its cabbage family cousins, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower. Its most distinguishing feature is an above-ground bulb, called a “globe.”

The folklore: Kholrabi, Brassica oleracea, is a humble cruciferous vegetable whose name means “cabbage turnip” in German. Kohlrabi was first documented by a botanist in 16th century Europe before making its way to America in the late 1800s.

The facts: The two main types of kohlrabi in the U.S. are white (technically light green) and purple. Europeans Kohlrabi is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin B6, fiber and potassium.

The findings: Like all cruciferous vegetables, kohlrabi contains a group of substances called glucosinolates, which impart a signature spicy or bitter flavor and pungent smell. According to the American Cancer Society, these substances break down during digestion and form compounds that may have anticancer effects. Raw kohlrabi provides more cancer-fighting glucosinolates than cooked, reports a study in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. Purple kohlrabi in particular is high in antioxidants called anthocyanins, blue-violet and red-orange pigments that have been linked to protection from cardiovascular disease, cancer and age-related memory decline.

The finer points: Look for small white bulbs (baby kohlrabi), which have a crisp, sweet and juicy flavor, like an apple. You can separate and saute the stems and leaves, and eat the globe raw or cooked. While you don't have to peel the globe, some people choose to remove the tough, woody exterior on older kohlrabi before eating or preparing.

Kohlrabi is often eaten raw, pureed into soups, shredded for fritters or slaw, roasted or steamed as a side dish. To store, wash the leaves, wrap them in paper towels, put them in a plastic bag, and refrigerate the globes for up to 10 days.

Mashed Cauliflower and Kohlrabi

Recipe adapted courtesy Liz Della Croce of www.TheLemonBowl.com

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 kohlrabi, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 tablespoon horseradish

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup chives, minced, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish

Steam cauliflower and kohlrabi until fork tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Smash the vegetables with a potato masher. Add yogurt, horseradish, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup chives. Garnish with chives and serve.

Per serving: 70 calories; 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 12 percent calories from fat); 12 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 10 mg cholesterol; 310 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 4 g fiber.

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