Friday, November 30, 2007

Recipe: What To Do With Kohlrabi? Purée It!

And Eating by Silly Food Rules


These resprouted purple kohlrabi plants are very, very safe.

Life is complicated. Something as basic as eating shouldn't be, but leave it to us humans to let this vital, natural act all but take over our lives. Even though most of us now have the luxury of hunting and gathering our food from the farmers' market and garden and grocery store rather than out in the wilds, we nevertheless think about it constantly.

But instead of worrying whether we'll be able to take down a bison to feed us through the winter, our days are now dominated by smaller, more specific—and yet still often overwhelming
details, such as figuring out how to produce meals that will simultaneously support our health, our budget, and the never ending desire to lose ten pounds.

But it's the often ridiculous rules and rationalizations we've come up with that really send us over the edge of edible obsession. You know, those little things that make perfect sense only because you've conveniently convinced yourself that they do.

For instance, some people believe that calories don't actually count if you've snitched the food from someone else's plate. Or that a healthy breakfast can consist of an enormous hunk of chocolate cake as long as it's accompanied by a large glass of milk (this would be me).

Nitrate-fearing health nuts will gleefully wolf down a mile-long hot dog if they're sitting in a sports stadium, and people who would never allow a bag of refined sugar into their homes are routinely seen walking around carnivals with their faces buried in clouds of cotton candy.

Some people are more practical, only consuming certain foods if they're in season, or setting spending limits and refusing to pay more than a dollar for a can of tuna or 89 cents for a bunch of parsley.

Then there's the inordinate number of us who know that when it comes to eating, anything goes if you're on vacation.


The beauty of vegetables is highly underrated.

Ever since I moved to the country and started planting an enormous kitchen garden, many of my self-imposed food laws have to do with buying fruits and vegetables. If I don't
or can'tgrow something, then I have no problem paying for it.

But plunking down cash for so-so stuff that I have in great abundance at certain times of the year? Can't do it. Swiss chard from the supermarket? Certainly not. Kale? I can't. Tomatoes? No way. It's the same with basil, turnips, arugula, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, sweet peppers, pak choy, radishes, strawberries, and all sorts of other stuff.

In a moment of weakness last summer I forked over two dollars for a miniscule packet of fresh dill—which grows wild in my garden but never when the cucumbers are ready—and the stress almost killed me.

I do, however, make a few exceptions for year round essentials that I grow but not well (or not enough of), such as onions, broccoli, and parsley. And if I could find a decent source for it, I would probably buy kohlrabi every single week.

Kohlrabi, from the German words kohl (cabbage) and rabi (turnip), is not actually a cabbage or a turnip. Cultivated in Europe since at least the mid 1500's, this cold loving member of the brassica (cabbage) family is low in calories, high in fiber, and a good source of several vitamins and minerals. Although kohlrabi has been grown the U.S. since at least the early 1800's, it still has yet to become very popular.

Sweet and mildly flavored, kohlrabi can be braised, boiled, stuffed, sliced, scalloped, steamed, julienned, roasted, and sautéed. You can grate it into slaw, toss it into salads, slip it into soups and stews, snack on it raw with dip, and stir-fry it. You can even wrap it in foil and grill it.

I've seen recipes where kohlrabi was covered in cream, sautéed with anchovies, stuffed into empanadas, fried into cakes, served with hollandaise sauce, and turned into a cinnamon brunch bake. This vegetable is versatile.

(2011 Update: Farmgirl Fare readers offer up even more ideas for what to do with kohlrabi in the comments section of this post.)

Unfortunately all of these cooks are wasting their time
and their kohlrabi. For in my opinion, the only thing you should ever be doing with kohlrabi is turning it into purée. Trust me.

So what are your silly food rules? Come on, I won't tell anyone.

Purple Kohlrabi in the kitchen garden - Farmgirl Fare
Purple kohlrabi in my kitchen garden (read about growing kohlrabi here)


Kohlrabi Purée Recipe
Serves up to six
Adapted slightly from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins (authors of The Silver Palate Cookbook)

**Click here to print this recipe**

The Silver Palate ladies, who are self-described kohlrabi fans, say that "kohlrabi, once tasted, can become an obsession, for it seems to exude freshness," and liken it to an almost peppery version of broccoli. They do include two other kohlrabi recipes besides this purée in The New Basics Cookbook (which is one of my all time favorite cookbooks), but I figure that's only because their editor told them they had to.

Kohlrabi is usually available from May to December and comes in both white- (which is actually green) and purple-skinned varieties. The insides of both are white. Since my motto is, Why go with green if you can choose purple instead? I always grow the purple variety in my organic kitchen garden.

Look for kohlrabi bulbs that are about 2½ inches in diameter. Any larger and the skin may toughen and need to be peeled, and the insides can be woody. Freshly picked kohlrabi will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

You'll need both the bulb and the leaves for this recipe, which is where my problem comes in. By the time the bulbs have formed on the plants, insects have usually ravaged the leaves. They'll grow back if given the chance, as you can see in the top photo of these old plants I discovered buried under weeds last fall, but by then the bulbs will no longer be edible. Fortunately the young leaves are wonderful in salads.

This spring all the leaves remained untouched, but most of the plants never formed bulbs. Apparently this cool season vegetable doesn't care for our drastic late winter and early spring temperature fluctuations. But I did manage to harvest kohlrabi enough to make one batch of this glorious purée.

You can read more about my experiences growing kohlrabi (with other gardeners chiming in in the comments section) here.

If you don't have any kohlrabi leaves, kale would probably make a good substitute.

Kohlrabi plants are beautiful. Kohlrabi purée is not, which is why I haven't included a photo. This is actually a good thing, because if you believe that guests should only be served food that is pleasing to look at, you can save this recipe for a time when you only need to feed yourself.

Rosso and Lukins suggest serving kohlrabi purée alongside your favorite meatloaf instead of mashed potatoes, but I turned it into a main course and managed to devour an embarrassingly large amount while standing in the kitchen.

I've adapted the recipe slightly, mostly because I'm not the type of person who ever has 3 Tablespoons of chicken stock hanging around in the fridge. The mushrooms add a nice flavor, but I've left them out before, and the purée still tasted delicious.

4 kohlrabi bulbs with leaves
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion
, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces cultivated mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas), quartered
3 Tablespoons cream (or milk, chicken stock, olive oil, or water)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Trim the kohlrabi bulbs, peeling them if the skins seem tough. Rinse the leaves (discarding any that are yellow) pat them dry, and coarsely chop. Set aside. But the bulbs into 1-inch chunks.

2. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, and add the kohlrabi chunks. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another 1 to 2 minutes. Don't let the garlic brown.

4. Add the mushrooms and the reserved kohlrabi leaves to the skillet. Cover, and cook 5 minutes. Then uncover, and cook, stirring, until all the liquid has evaporated, 3 minutes. Set the skillet aside.

5. Drain the kohlrabi chunks and place them in the bowl of a food processor (I love my 12-cup KitchenAid processor). Add the mushroom mixture and the cream (or whatever substitute you're using). Purée until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

6. Transfer the purée to a saucepan and reheat over low heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 6 portions. (I love that they don't actually say it will 'serve' six people, but that it does indeed make six portions.)

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the fresh veggie foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres
—and we're nuts about kohlrabi.

61 comments:

  1. Could you please introduce us to your furry, undercover gardener please?

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    1. That's our English/Australian Shepherd stock dog, Lucky Buddy Bear! :)

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  2. Kohlrabi is probably my absolute most favorite vegetable ever and I can't possibly eat enough of it. Sadly, far too many people don't seem to know what it is or have even heard of it. On the other hand, that leaves more for me. However, I'd have to respectfully say that the best possible way to eat it is to simply peel it, slice it, and sprinkle it with salt. Eating it while standing at the counter only adds to the experience!

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  3. Kohlrabi is another of those foods that I never knew what to do with, even if I did grow it once when starts were on sale at the greenhouse. Thanks for the recipe!

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  4. My secret food rule? If I'm sick I can eat whatever I want. Since I tend to catch most flus and colds that come along, this rule is pretty pernicious. And over time, I've stretched the definition of "illness" to include such minor ailments as headache, being overly tired, or having mild congestion due to allergies....

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  5. If you stand over the sink and wolf something down, it has no calories...

    Kohlrabi is one of the few veggies I have never tried. I'll soon remedy that after your loving description.

    Love your blog and absolutely adore your menagerie!

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  6. white food has no calories...therefore white chocolate is safe.

    things that are in pieces have no calories....therefore oreo cookie and tater chip crumbs are safe.

    cheesecake is just a fancier way of eating cheese and crackers so it's ok too!

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  7. Now I know what to plant in the few remaining spots in my Earthbox. My CSA never delivers kohlrabi, and I love it.

    My food rules are limited to leftovers. Don't eat leftovers that are more than a week old unless you can boil the heck out of them. Amen.

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  8. Any food eaten while standing up has fewer calories than that same food while you are seated and eating off a plate.

    Foods that are eaten while walking or strolling actually have negative calories because you are exerting energy to move while eating at the same time.

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  9. Okay, must try this one!

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  10. The first time I bought kolrabi at the farmers' market, I asked the farmer how to use it, and she replied, "Couldn't tell ya, I've never eaten it." That's a sad commentary coming from someone who grows the stuff! I like to shred kolrabi in my salad or in a slaw. I love the sharp bite it has.

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  11. Susan,
    Yum! Gonna try this as soon as I can make it to Fresh Market.

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  12. chicky momma12/02/2007 7:34 AM

    A couple people had it at the market last year and let me try it. Have seeds haven't planted them yet but will. They are mighty tastie raw. Love the blog. Lisa

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  13. My parents used to grow this, but we never had the purple kind. I remember them cooking it like a veggie, but I always liked eating it raw. I'm not sure why I've never grown any myself, duh. I can imagine that this would taste great as a pureed vegetable though, the flavor is so wonderful!

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  14. I have to agree that kohlrabi is fabulous raw. No one ever knows what to do with them, but they sure are beautiful!

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  15. We all love kohlrabi and I´m very glad to end up with two new recipes this week. Thanks!
    and I agree with Kalyn, never came across purple ones. ;(

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  16. Thank you for the introduction to a new vegetable for me. We are trying to eat more vegetables so I'm going to add this to the list, find some and puree it. I love your blog.

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  17. I've had kohlrabi raw and have never really liked it. That said, I started cooking/roasting some of the veggies I've not been so fond of and it's made all the difference in the world. I'm certainly willing to try kohlrabi puree :).

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  18. My rule: If it is the weekend, I can eat it. All bets are off on Saturday and Sunday.

    OK, and Friday night because that is Pizza Night. And then, also maybe Friday at lunch because *Oh, I've been so good all week*. And then *maybe* at breakfast on Friday because I've just been eating flax and yogurt all week for breakfast and wouldn't a whole wheat waffle be SO good?

    I think I'm seeing why all that running is producing very limited results...

    Anyway, I should tell you that I finally got over my Fear of Swiss Chard by making it from your recent recipe, so will probably have to try kohlrabi now so that I can progress farther with my Vegetable Fear psychosis.

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  19. Tania, The Candied Quince12/04/2007 3:09 PM

    When I was a little girl and wanted to eat the mini Coffee Crisps that I'd get in my Hallowe'en loot bag, my mother would insist I drink a glass of milk alongside to make it a "healthy" snack. As a result, to this day, I think a glass of milk consumed with anything chocolatey (cake, cookies, brownies, you name it) automatically makes it healthy!

    I'm not sure why, but I've never cooked with kohlrabi -- I usually just peel it, cut it into fingers and snack on it raw (yum!). This puree sounds delicious. Great idea!

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  20. I love Kohlrabi and always make it the way my grandmother in Berlin/Germany used to cook it. Cubed, simmered with chopped leaves and some butter, salt and pepper, add a little cream. Great side dish, but I have not tried the puree. Definitely next time. Thanks for the recipe. Susanne

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  21. The secret food rule: If I hit the gym or go on a run, then it is perfectly balanced to make a batch of chocolate cookies (eating about a cup of dough during the cooking phase) because a "calorie deficiency" was created by the cardio. I have no weight loss plans, but am one of those who works out to eat more dessert.

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  22. i'm glad you like kohlrabi bc its super tasty! but my favorite way to have it is in soup. a nice meaty bone broth with kohlrabi chunks and maybe some carrot is soo good. you really taste how sweet the vegs are.

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  23. I made your kohlrabi puree tonight with dinner and it was better even than I had hoped. I've had kohlrabi in my fridge for a couple of weeks from my CSA and could never figure out what to do with it. The texture reminded me vaguely of that of pureed cauliflower, but the flavor was much sweeter. This is definitely a favorite!

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  24. Deelish! This was my first time trying kohlrabi, thanks to a CSA delivery. A bit of work but well worth it. I served this with a veggie meatloaf, Yukon gold potatoes, and mushroom gravy. Don't forget the wine!

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  25. Thanks for the inspiration, I cooked some up after reading your blog...which, by the way, I love!

    my recipe is here: http://www.kentstreetdesigns.com/woodchuckfarms/2009/04/26/experimenting-with-vegetables/

    Looking forward to reading more.

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  26. i know you would never have to do this, but can you freeze the pureed kohlrabi dish after you cook it? sara

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  27. Hi Sara,
    You're right - I doubt I'll ever have enough kohlrabi puree to freeze any leftovers. ; )

    I bet, though, that it would freeze just fine. I went on a sort of pureed vegetable kick last winter and successfully froze both cauliflower and broccoli purees (in plastic freezer containers with snap on lids) - but only because I made really big batches of each. : ) And one of these days I'll get around to sharing the recipes. I'm hooked on mashed veggies - I even made a broccoli puree pizza!

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  28. yum, sounds good! I bought some kohlrabi at the fruit and veg store last week, and havn't known how to cook it. I'll try this tonight :) Thanks!

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  29. A food rule that I've followed throughout my life (well, at least since high school): If, in helping yourself to a portion of cake, pie, quiche, cheesecake -- whatever round thing you are hankering for -- you keep the angle of the cut the same, your portion officially does not count, neither in calories, nor in allocated servings. So, if there was a ninety degree angle to the cut, as long as you maintain that ninety degree angle, you officially have not eaten a thing. This can result in some strange shaped pies if you take it too far, but, all in all, this rule has served me well. In certain circles, it has even acquired an aura of mystical absolutism.

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  30. I haven't eaten kohlrabi since I munched on it raw as a little girl. But I got one free from the farmer's market this week (they were a bit too big to sell, I guess), and I tried your recipe. Totally delicious! It's 90 degrees outside, and I still just want to suck this stuff down.

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  31. Thank you! We ate this tonight and everyone loved it, including my 7-year old! I have added the recipe to my collection. Love your website! Andrea in St. Louis

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  32. Kohlrabi makes awesome refrigerator pickles - with plenty of white vinegar, red pepper flakes, and some sugar. Purple is best, as is including some brightly colored radishes or beets - because then the pickles are BRIGHT PINK.

    And who doesn't like bright pink, vinegary, spicy, crunchy pickles??

    Thank you for your eloquent paean to kohlrabi.

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  33. I am so pleased to see that so many like Kohlrabi like I do!

    To stretch out the puree for a dinner party, I once added two heads of cauliflower - One roasted with a few garlic cloves and the other steamed - and then pureed all of it and mixed it up in a casserole with the Kohlrabi puree. I kept a few of the roasted fleurettes for decoration, sprayed it with olive oil and put it under the broiler for few minutes til it was golden. Not a bite remained. Yum!

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  34. Besides putting Kohlrabi in soup (Yum) a favorite way to use it is to shred the bulbs and fry in butter or oil. When tender add small homemade dumplings, salt and pepper. The leaves could be shredded and added too. Just like Cabbage and Dumplings only better. The Kohlrabi has a sweet delicious taste cooked like this.

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  35. I just got Kohlrabi in my first CSA bin of the season, and they included this very recipe. I went searching for something to go with it, because my husband doesn't believe in dinners with just one item for some reason. Love that my favorite foodie website (yours) is the first one that came up. I have kind of a glut of ground beef in the freezer right now so meatloaf it is. I think I'll also roast some potatoes (another glut).

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  36. Just made this recipe yesterday and it was WONDERFUL! Am I crazy, I didn't see in the directions where to put the cream or broth?

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  37. Hi Schmoopy11,
    I'm so glad you enjoyed this recipe. Thanks for taking the time to come back and let us know. The cream or broth goes in at the end:

    5. Drain the kohlrabi chunks and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Add the mushroom mixture and all the remaining ingredients. Purée until smooth.

    Looking back, I should probably reword it to simply say 'add the mushroom mixture and cream. . .' to make it a little clearer, but unfortunately due to a weird technical Blogger glitch, if I go back in and try to edit the post now, all sorts of stuff will get messed up. Unfortunately I learned that the hard way! : )

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  38. I just found your blog while searching for a Kohlrabi recipe to use up all of my CSA box ingredients. Love it!

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  39. What an excellent idea for kohrabi. This is exactly what I was looking for - something new and creative.

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  40. My first experience after getting kohlrabi from a farmer's market was to boil them and put olive on them. While eating, I kept thinking "oh how else can I prepare these?" because I was loving it so much. Pureed was the first thing that came to mind. The second was to make it like potato salad. Anyone ever make Kohlrabi salad in this way?

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  41. Thank-you for the excellent kohlrabi recipe! I was tired of slaw and wanted a unique alternative. It was a big hit with my family, they actually found the green coloring "pretty"!

    Thanks again!
    Missy

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  42. Oh my goodness! This was so good. I just finished making it and eating some. This will definitely be in my "four star only" cookbook (just a binder with only my favorite recipes).

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  43. I tried the recipe tonight. It was great!!! I stacked it with slices of cooked sweet potato. The combination rocked!!! My only complaint was overall the stack could have used some crunch; the potatoes and puree together had an obviously mushy texture. I may try to include some raw kohlrabi next time. Any alternative suggestions out there???

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  44. I was given a couple of kohlrabi, being told it had a slight turnip flavor. I like and usually grow Toykyo Cross (mild white turnip). So I hit the internet looking for tips on how to cook them and came across your enthusiastic blog and equally enthusiastic following. Tonite I made the recipe, but it turned out not to my liking -Since there was no measurement for the leaves, I'm thinking I used too many and drown out the bulb flavor... Any comments/suggestions?

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  45. Anon,
    The flavor of kohlrabi is fairly mild, and of course it will vary from vegetable to vegetable. Kohlrabi that is conventionally produced on a huge farm with chemicals will likely have a lot less flavor than some that is homegrown or from a small organic farm. There's the possibility, too, that you simply don't care for kohlrabi.

    I'm afraid I don't have an exact measurement for the leaf/bulb ratio (I just use however many leaves I have and always like how it comes out), but if you want to give the recipe another try, I would suggest using fewer leaves (which I also like to use in salads when they're small) and seeing if you like it better.

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  46. Another variation is to simmer the mushrooms with the kohlrabi and puree 'em all together in the cooking water :. I top with a little bit of cream or sour cream when serving.

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  47. When we were first married a neighbor gave us some kohlrabi and said to eat them raw or cook like any potato. We liked raw so well never did try cooked.45 years later I'm finally finding ways to cook and use the leaves. So you know we did not totally waste these leaves all these years we did put them on a compost pile. (sorry please stop shuddering)We grow our own and am anxious to try the puree and suggested variations. Just got the computer so will keep checking. See you can teach an old dog new things. Thanks!!

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  48. I write a blog about my garden, my CSA, farmers' markets, etc. (www.growalittlesomething.wordpress.com) and I used this post as a reference when I was sharing facts and recipes. I gave you props, of course! I can't wait to try the kohlrabi puree you provided a recipe for. Fun post :)

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  49. We like it raw best. Slice it and use for a dipper with a veggie dip. Add it to salads. Supershnitzle(sp?) has larger bulbs but is still very tender and doesn't go woody as fast as others. It doesn't really like hot weather and does best in early spring and in the fall.

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  50. Shred and fry like you do potatoes to make hashbrowns. Very good.

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  51. I peeled it, cubed it, and added it to chicken noodle soup with some fresh ginger in the broth. Yum!

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  52. This year, I grew some of those giant kohlrabi, and last week, tried the puree recipe. We really liked it. It was a huge kohlrabi - and we ended up with quite a bit left over. After Thanksgiving, I dumped the leftover puree in a pot with turkey stock and some leftover turkey and turned it into a fabulous cream of turkey soup! It was so good, I need to turn it into a "real" recipe. Thanks for the recipe for the kohlrabi puree!

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    1. Hi Pam,
      Congratulations on your kohlrabi harvest - I'm envious. :) I've never heard of giant kohlrabi. And your soup sounds fantastic. Thanks for the delicious inspiration!

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  53. We are growing kohlrabi for the first time this year (also the purple variety). It is such an awesome looking vegetable!

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  54. Would this work with soy or almond milk?

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    1. Probably. If you don't want to add any soy or almond flavor to the puree, though, I would just use water or olive oil.

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  55. I have been growing Kohlrabi for a few years-Awesome vegetable- Great cole slaw-cool in soups-wherever you would use root vegetables,also great alone on a vegi tray...or sauted...red or green...try it!

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  56. Wow! I had no idea what to expect and it was delicious (even without the greens).

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  57. Tanks for the tips on Kohlrabi. An old childhood favourite. Mum used to steam or lightly boil it and toss it in butter and parsley. yummo. My chef son juliennes the raw kohlrab and makes the most delicious salad.

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