I am my mother’s daughter and like her, whenever I go about and see something out of the usual I am compelled to make a beeline towards that waving particularity. I can still hear her ask, “Doesn’t that have special juice?” as she draws me towards a piece of costume jewelry perhaps a lion’s head staring hard with cubic zirconium eyes and a face emblazoned with emeralds. Kohlrabi another rare sighting to be sure, when glimpsed must be bought directly on the spot. I’ve gone years at a time without noticing any in the near vicinity. As exciting as witnessing that juvenile eagle unleash its wing to the wind outside my window, I spy a bunch with its flailing leaves muzzled in feigned submission at the grocers. But I know different, in spite of how unassuming they look amidst the bok choy and the turnips, given a chance they’ll stand their own unique ground.
In their environs these squat bulbs look respectable enough, unobtrusive and orderly in militant rows. But hold still a moment, allow the distracting wave of leaves to cease, and what begins to form between two blinks of an eye is a creature somewhat topsy turvy and a little higgledy piggledy too. Blink again, it’s still true. Shouldn’t these globes exist below the earth pushing up when ready like a turnip or a beet? Do leaves emerge where roots should be? Instead this cultivated plant of the cabbage family sits decidedly upon the ground with gadabout leaves radiating knowledge of the inside joke. A quick Wikipedia scan further adds that the root-bulb is in fact a swollen stem.
But I really didn’t notice that then. Though I made a beeline to her house day after day perhaps I was desensitized by my own dissimilitude and unable to truly appreciate contrast, preferring perfectly ordinary instead. Along with cookies and salami sandwiches, lemonade and pancakes, I inadvertently ate a few knobs of kohlrabi on the way. I will readily admit--more than here or there. Nothing exotic but the name, pale cubes of cabbage-turnip plied in butter proved to be mild, sweet and exceedingly tender. They were truly a vegetable to be embraced by the young and timid or those unsure of strangeness. Easily, I fell into all three. Since then I’ve grown a soft spot for this under appreciated vegetable which lulls me back to a quiet time when I sampled new things in inconspicuous surroundings.
Back in my current kitchen I am surprised that I never really looked at these odd characters and simultaneously amazed that kohlrabi existed with me in the forever bemoaned non-descript suburb of upstate New York. I didn’t think anything happened “outside of the box” there, but there they plainly sat. I couldn’t really see anything except in comparison to another. Perhaps if I really saw splendid kohlrabi with its whirligig of leaves, I would have understood why it hurled itself out of a straitjacket called earth or that it liked to streak through the sky at night. And just maybe, I would have dared to fly solo too...
Vernal Kohlrabi Krunch: I usually peel, cube and steam young globes preferring to stay close to my old memory. This time after looking at them freshly, I decided to grate them and experience them anew. Raw they are exceedingly mild with the faintest bite. They are a bit weepy which I didn’t mind as it corresponds to the slow melt around me. The taste is the inner most core of spring.
3 small kohlrabi bulbs peeled and grated
Meyer lemon juice
Flax seed oil
Dill/ celery seed
Directions: Have fun, it’s slaw after all! I kept it simple just wanting to let the clean taste shine through. A nice way to clear the palate after a winter of soulful eating…