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Out With the Kale: The Newest Favorites Among U.S. Chefs

2 minute read
Alexandra Sifferlin and Howard Chua-Eoan

[Kohlrabi is a good source of vitamin c]

It looks more like a dinosaur than a vegetable. But kohlrabi–hiding inside jagged, armored skin–is likely to be this year’s trendiest new food.

Kohlrabi (pronounced coal-raw-bee) is a pale green or purple bulb that sprouts multiple stalks of dark green leaves; both bulb and leaves are edible. The bulb is crunchy and slightly sweet, with the tang of a radish.

Though little known in the U.S., this veggie is popular around the world. In Nepal, Tibet, northern India and China, kohlrabi is often pickled with a mixture of spices and oils and enjoyed in large quantities with bread and yogurt. In countries closer to the equator, it is grated into pancakes, flat breads and fritters.

Though Europeans have been eating kohlrabi for centuries, the vegetable was mostly bypassed in North America, where its cousins broccoli and cauliflower came to dominate instead. But farmers’-market regulars are quickly becoming familiar with this vegetable, which is low in calories, at just 36 per cup, and high in fiber and potassium.

Now American chefs are learning to look past its brutish exterior. Jenn Louis of Lincoln Restaurant in Portland, Ore., says the bulb “reminds me of cabbage and jicama.” She says cooks should not overlook kohlrabi leaves, which are “wonderful and rich in iron.” Chef Kuniko Yagi of Hinoki & the Bird in Los Angeles says the stems of young kohlrabi can be quite tender, and even the rind, if prepared correctly, can be turned into a delicacy.

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