By Heidi Lewis
Kohlrabi has an alien look to it, reminiscent of a Pokémon or Marvin the Martian. Yet kohlrabi is no toy, it’s a lieutenant in the cabbage army holding down the fort on excellent nutrition and full flavor with its comrades at arms: broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Although its name means “cabbage turnip” in German, it isn’t a turnip, as it grows above ground.
Thriving in the cool air and soil it is understandable why Kohlrabi is a winter vegetable for us, and a staple in Northern and Eastern Europe. It is the dominant vegetable in the Kashmir region, sometimes eaten a few times a day. Kashmir is a rugged land tugged at on all sides by India, China, and Pakistan and contending with a number of faiths. Kohlrabi is featured prominently in the country’s Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist dishes.
Kashmiri people contend with political strife as well as climatic change. Their water-giving glaciers are shrinking. And every year the Civil Secretariat offices, the Assembly, and the Legislative Council move from the winter capital Jammu to the summer capital Srinagar. Over 300 trucks and buses carry 1,700 employees and their records and files over land.
When changes are afoot, whether regime changes, drops in temperature, or minor mood swings, it’s valuable to have a hearty vegetable like kohlrabi to reply on. It keeps well, which is why it’s stock in the root cellars of the world. It stands up well in stews and soups and is as good as potatoes but contains more vitamin C—84 grams per cup. It’s even delicious raw. Thinly sliced and salted between bread with fixings is a great lunch that’s sure to hold up in a backpack on a trek through the Karakoram Pass.
Prepare: Peel the outer fibrous layer and remove stems and leaves. It may also be cooked and then skinned, and the leaves can be cooked and eaten. Steam, sauté, or eat raw.
Storage: Kohlrabi keeps well. Remove leaves, wrap in damp paper towel, and place in a plastic bag. The globe will last up to three weeks in the refrigerator crisper.