Brassicas are to the vegetable world what the Medicis were to Renaissance Florence or what Rogers is to the cable-phone-internet sector today: tenacious, prolific, and everywhere. This week, our featured brassica is kohlrabi, also a descendent of the wild cabbage (mother to broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and brussle sprouts). Kohlrabi is the long-lost cousin of the family, one of the least known vegetables out there.

Historically, kohlrabi was a popular vegetable in Europe, enjoyed by both peasants and the wealthy. It is especially popular in Germany, Russia and Hungary. It’s also widely used in Asian cuisine; in China, it is known as gai laarn tau .

The name kohlrabi comes from the German words for cabbage ( kohl ) and turnip ( rabi ) because the globular base of the plant resembles a turnip, while the leaves are more cabbage-like. The globe’s mild, slightly sweet flavour and crisp texture are reminiscent of broccoli, cabbage, and radish. The leafy greens can be prepared much like kale. It grows in two varieties: purple or green (sometime called white); no matter the exterior colouration, both have a creamy white flesh.

Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked. To eat it raw, first remove the stems, then peel, taking care to remove the fibrous layer just below the skin. Kohlrabi can be grated or cut into strips, diced, sliced or cut into wedges. Raw kohlrabi is delicious in salads, on a crudité platter, or served alone as a side dish with a simple vinaigrette. Kohlrabi can be peeled before or after cooking, but the peel is easier to remove once the vegetable has been cooked.  As a cooked side dish try the kohlrabi globe pureed, stuffed, added to soup, or steamed. The leaves can be sautéed, steamed, or added to soups.

High in dietary fibre, potassium, folic acid, calcium, and vitamins A and C, kohlrabi is also low in calories and a potent anti-cancer vegetable.