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Groundwork: The Case for Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi and Apple Salad; see recipe below. (Cynthia A. Brown)

Vegetables started in March now define the garden at Green Spring Gardens in Northern Virginia. Most of the pea and lettuce harvests have finished, but there are lots of goodies waiting to make the journey from earth to table. The Tuscan kale looks gorgeous, and the cabbages, both smooth-leafed and wrinkled Savoy types, are beginning to head up nicely. Another member of the cabbage or brassica family, the broccoli, is budding, and if you look really closely, you can see the nascent buds of the Brussels sprouts in the leaf axils of the plant. We pointed that out only because we wanted to get "nascent" and "axils" into the same sentence, which is a first for this blog.

The one brassica that is perhaps easiest to grow but not grown enough is kohlrabi. It makes a distinctive turnip-size bulb at its base, and it has a wonderfully sweet and mild cabbage flavor.

Given even moisture (something we have definitely had this spring) it can be counted on to swell in May and into June. Don't let it mature too long; it's sweetest when taken on the small side. It also doesn't like our hot summers, but it can be grown as a fall crop. Kohlrabi takes about 50 days from germination to harvest.

Cindy Brown, assistant Donna Stecker and the team of volunteers at Green Spring Gardens have been growing white (actually light-green) and purple varieties of kohlrabi. Kolibri is the standard purple type. The leaves can be used in stir-fries.

Newly pulled kohlrabis. (Adrian Higgins -- The Washington Post)

Vegetable gardening is about success and failures, and if you stick with it, your advances will far outweigh the retreats. A tip for new gardeners: Take full credit for the successes, and blame the failures on the weather. The rain and relative coolness of the year, one would think, would have made 2009 a banner year for cauliflowers. But the wheels fell off; the flowers rotted or bolted.

The same conditions have really stalled the summer garden. The beans and cucumbers are refusing to grow. We're waiting for the rains to stop and the sun to come out, which it will, this being Washington and summertime.

The tomatoes are behind, too, but a month can make a world of difference in the veggie garden once the heat kicks in night and day in July. Trellis netting that until last week supported the runts of the snap peas (A variety named Sugar Bomb; sorry, Sugar Bon) now supports some young-but -eager vining cherry tomatoes. Sungold is the name, and you probably know it as the tangiest little cherry tomato around. It's beginning to fruit, and we're hoping the deer won't notice.

Cindy, take it away.

-- Adrian Higgins

Kohlrabi and Apple Salad
6 to 8 servings

Choose small kohlrabi “bulbs” to serve raw; save the large bulbs for recipes in which the vegetable is treated like a potato. Either size should be peeled; the skin can be stringy and tough.

This salad goes well with barbecued ribs and a Belgian white beer.

MAKE AHEAD: The salad can be assembled and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.

Adapted from a recipe in the October 1992 issue of Gourmet magazine by Cynthia A. Brown, assistant director at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria.

1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt, such as Chobani brand
1/3 cup olive-oil mayonnaise, such as Hellmann's brand
Juice of 1 large lemon (2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard, such as Grey Poupon Country Dijon
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional, especially if the apple is sweet and juicy)
Leaves from 3 large sprigs flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (2 tablespoons), plus a few sprigs for garnish
1 1/2 pounds (3 medium) kohlrabi bulbs (peeled), cut crosswise and then cut into very thin strips (julienne; if the leaves are still on the kohrabi bulbs; reserve for another use, such as adding to sauteed greens)
2 medium carrots (peeled), cut into julienne
1 handful (about 10) snow peas (strings discarded), cut crosswise into julienne
1 medium Granny Smith apple (peeled), cored and cut into julienne

Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, sugar, if using, and chopped parsley in a large bowl.

Add the kohlrabi, carrots, snow peas and apple; mix well to coat evenly. Let sit at room temperature for a few minutes to let all the flavors blend.

Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve.

Per serving: 111 calories, 2 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 130 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar

By Adrian Higgins  |  June 22, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Groundwork  | Tags: Adrian Higgins, Groundwork  
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Kohlrabi has a lot of suspicious associates, white Belgian beer and ribs are just two of them. There are even reports Kohlrabi studied at a madrassa in Waziristan.

Posted by: davemarks | June 22, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Locally-grown vegetables are a delicious treat. The Halifax Farmer's Market began in 1750 and is the longest-running market in North America. Have a look!

Posted by: canadiantourism | June 22, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Interpol has listed Kohlrabi as a vegetable of interest.

Posted by: davemarks | June 26, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

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