Up until a couple of months ago, I didn’t even know what kohlrabi was. By chance I was at a friend of a friend’s house for a party, and deep in the backyard was a beautiful edible garden. I could not resist a tour from Patti, the owner, who also insisted I tote along a shopping bag (it sounds weird to be “grocery shopping” at a party, but how could I say no to the gracious hostess?!).
After passing several beds of chard, spinach and asparagus, we came across the most unusual plants I’d ever seen. Poking out of the sandy soil were little green Sputniks, tentacles and all, with cabbage-like leaves. If turnip grew above ground and married cabbage, they would have little kohlrabi babies. Since I love trying new oddities, Patti sent me home with a few of those Sputniks.
Turns out, kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea) and its name is derived from the German words kohl (“cabbage”) and rübe (“turnip”). The taste and texture is similar to a broccoli stem, and the whole vegetable — from the leaves to the bulb — can be eaten raw or cooked.
Since I’ve been in a pickling kind of mood lately, I thought it would make an excellent coleslaw, minus the dairy. With its crunchy texture and mild flavor that just soaks in all that pickling juice, quick pickled kohlrabi slaw adds a nice kick as a side dish for meats, or as a relish for burgers and hot dogs. I even eat it by the forkful straight out of the jar — it’s just that good!
Quick Pickled Kohlrabi Slaw
Makes 2 quarts
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
2 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 medium kohlrabi, leaves removed
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, divided
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 to 3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, pickling salt, and sugar to a rolling boil. Stir until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved, then remove the brine from heat.
Trim the kohlrabi bulb with a knife, removing any blemishes and hard bits. You don’t need to peel the bulb, but I find that the flesh tends to be tougher where the “tentacles” are, so I slice them off. (By the way, don’t toss the leaves — they can be used like any other greens in salads, sautes, and stir-fries.)
Slice the kohlrabi into thin matchsticks about 2 inches long and 1/8 inch wide.
Pour a teaspoon of black peppercorns into each clean jar. Then, fill the jars by repeating layers of garlic, onion and kohlrabi to just about 1 inch below the rim.
Fill the jars with brine, making sure all the ingredients are covered, then top off with 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes in each jar.
Wipe the rims with a towel and seal with lids. Store your jars in the fridge for at least a day before consuming — but kohlrabi slaw tastes better when it’s been pickled for at least three days. And it’s best after one week, three weeks, even six months later, which is the longest I’ve kept any kind of quick pickles in the fridge. Most likely you’ll have eaten it all before then!