Growing up in a rural Central Oregon community, I never saw kohlrabi until I moved to the valley for college. And then it looked so foreign to me that I wasn’t brave enough to try it. Fast forward to me as an adult, regularly receiving kohlrabi in my CSA shares and now that I know what it is and how versatile it is, I enjoy experimenting with kohlrabi in different hot and cold dishes.
Kohlrabi is one of the Brassica oleracea in the family Brassicaceae, or cruciferous vegetables. Usually a plant gets its own species name but B. oleracea includes such diverse vegetables as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale as well as kohlrabi. So in order to specify that we’re talking about kohlrabi we add var. gongylodes to make it Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes.
As shown in the image at https://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/3395076/brassica-oleracea.0.jpg, the kohlrabi variation of Brassica oleracea was selected for its stem.
As with other cruciferous vegetables, kohlrabi is low in calories, high in vitamin C, and a good source of dietary fiber. Eating cruciferous vegetables several times per week has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers such as colon and rectal cancer (Source: Have You Tried Kohlrabi?). For more information about the relationship between consumption of cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk, check out Cruciferous Vegetables from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
Knowing how cruciferous vegetables are complemented by cheddar cheese I wanted to make a sort of kohlrabi and cheddar casserole, like scalloped potatoes but with kohlrabi instead of potatoes and chicken broth instead of cream. Here’s what I came up with.
- 3 kohlrabi (after peeling and slicing I had 1.629 pounds, about 4 cups)
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- Dash of cayenne pepper
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (for sauce)
- ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (for topping)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a saucepan, sauté onions and garlic in butter until soft. Stir in flour and cook for one minute. Add broth, salt, and cayenne pepper and cook on medium heat until smooth, stirring often. Stir in one cup shredded cheddar cheese and cook until melted. Remove from heat.
In an eight by eleven inch baking dish, layer half of the kohlrabi slices, half the cheese sauce, the other half of the kohlrabi slices, and the last of the cheese sauce. Top with the half cup of shredded cheddar cheese and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake uncovered for one hour or until easy to pierce with a fork. Serve warm.
In the Garden
As with many of the other cruciferous vegetables, kohlrabi is a cool season crop that grows best at temperatures below 75°F. It can be grown from seeds or transplants and planting in succession is recommended so it isn’t all ready to harvest at the same time (it’s delicious, but there’s only so much you can eat at a time and it only stores for a few weeks under refrigeration).
For more information about growing kohlrabi, check out these Extension resources. For best results, go by recommendations from a state with similar soils and climate to your own.
- How to Grow Cole Crops – Michigan State University
- Kohlrabi – University Of Illinois
- Kohlrabi in the Garden – Utah State University
Henneman, A. Have You Tried Kohlrabi – University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Higdon, J. Cruciferous Vegetables. Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute. 2005. Accessed 20 Feb 2017.
Stromberg, J. Kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage are all varieties of a single magical plant species. Vox. 10 Feb 2015. Accessed 20 Feb 2017.