Children have a complex and conflicted relationship with vegetables. Take kohlrabi, for example...
Mother had seven bins in the basement. They were labeled for the days of the week. And they contained toys. On Monday we could play with the toys in the Monday bin. Before we went to bed on Monday, those toys had to be returned to their bin and the bin went to the basement. Tuesday was exciting because we rediscovered the fun toys that we hadn’t seen since the previous Tuesday. Upon reflection, it never occurred to us to sneak downstairs and raid an “off day” bin.
Mother was a Mary Poppins kind of a mom. She ruled with an iron hand, a warm heart, and quick wits. It was pointless to cross her because she was too far ahead of us. Oh we tried, don’t think we didn’t.
For instance, since Mother had complete control of the food supply – snack cupboards had not been invented yet – one fine summer day, we plotted to raid the neighbour's garden. We crept silently over to that garden in the bright light of day, under, I now realize, the gaze of bemused adults behind window curtains. We were amazed by the perfect rows of greenery twitching in the breeze like the tails of exotic creatures lurking under the ground. It was impossible to resist he naughty urge to give one a tug. I remember a carrot emerging, bright orange and perfect in the sunlight. Dusting off the dirt before taking a bite added a spice of elicit, somehow, to the sweet freshly killed vegetable. Another! Let’s try this one!
Heavens to Betsy! What is this strange thing? A carrot is a familiar friend, but when we ripped a kohlrabi from the earth, it was a moment to which all archeologists can surely relate. It was strange. It was new. It was from another world totally unfamiliar to us. We dusted it off. We stared. We turned it every which way. It was beautiful! Soft green and round. Sturdy with rootlike extensions. What a discovery! The time had come for the true test. The taste test! And, by golly, it tasted fine. Somewhat familiar and yet entirely new. It was our discovery. We wanted to put a name to it. We wanted to ask Mother, source of all knowledge. But we knew we were thieves, and that we would incur her wrath if we confessed. Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary. It was perhaps a coincidence that a few days later, Mother taught us all about kohlrabi. She had one there and explained how it could be eaten raw or cooked. We were very interested in all she told us about our vegetable. And we were relieved that she never had to know about our thievery!
“Kohlrabi (German turnip or turnip cabbage; Brassica oleracea Gongylodes Group) is a biennial vegetable, and is a low, stout cultivar of cabbage. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw as well as cooked. Edible preparations are made with both the stem and the leaves”. Wikipedia
I don’t remember how that particular kohlrabi was prepared, but I have served it many ways, both raw and cooked, over the intervening years. In the winter I favour a gratin, but in the summer, it has to be a crunchy salad! This one from
- 1 head kohlrabi
- 1/2 apple, such as Gala
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/2 bird's eye chili
- 1 pinch cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste With a sharp knife, cut off the “branches” of the kohlrabi. Peel it with a vegetable peeler. Cut the kohlrabi into matchsticks either using a sharp knife of a mandolin (I used the latter). Do the same with the apple. Toss the kohlrabi and the apple with the remaining ingredients and chill before eating.
Although this is lovely, I know I won’t be a be able to resist the urge to fire up the spiralizer for a bit of added legerdemain. Kohlrabi and apples both spiralize so beautifully.
It’s been a long time since I first discovered kohlrabi, there on my knees in the company of my co-conspirator siblings, but I have always felt a uniquely personal relationship with the kohlrabi. When I see them in stores or at farmer's markets, they never fail to elicit a smile and a private salute to Mother.