I can’t remember my first kohlrabi. I have to imagine that it possessed a slight chill, as kohlrabi always seems to have, despite the warm spring day, and was thickly sliced. It may have been slightly salted, or dipped in ranch, or simply extended out to me, chubby hands outstretched. What I do know is that my first kohlrabi was plucked, just minutes before, peeled and thickly sliced. There was little pretense to the presentation – just the simple vegetable grown by my grandfather in his garden.
My grandfather, beyond introducing me to vegetables like kohlrabi, also taught me to fish. Where to find the best, fattest, most juicy worms. How to wrap the writhing worm around the hook in such a way that it’ll stay firmly put, while still dancing for the fish.
He would take the child me down to a local stream, let me help pick out the best spot, and ready the bait. And we’d sit for an hour or two, snagging all the fish that twirled and swirled around the rocks that littered the stream bed. We threw back the smaller ones, wishing them luck, and splashed the larger into a ratty, paint marked bucket, filled with a few inches of stream water. There, they flopped and spun, gaped their mouths wide, waiting.
And while he didn’t teach me how to clean the caught fish (8-year-old me wasn’t terribly interested in the scales and guts), he certainly taught me to respect the animal. To let it live with respect, to catch it with respect, to cook it with respect.
The same principle applied to the fruits and vegetables he grew. He nurtured them from seed in the basement, under lights during the frost-filled early spring months. Tenderly watched over them and guided them in the ground. At harvest, he always set aside some bags of vegetables to take with him to church, to those who were unable to grow their own. My grandparents grew up in the Great Depression and World War II and knew the value of good, honest food.
My grandfather passed several years ago, but I still think of him often. Of his precious, overflowing garden and his disdain for the local rabbit population. Of the many fish we caught and the many we returned to the stream.
Of fresh, sliced kohlrabi. Cool and crisp. No pretense.
Kohlrabi is the milder, sweeter cousin to the cabbage, similar in taste to the stalk of broccoli, and looking something like a sadly mis-formed turnip. It can be white, green, or purple. The young leaves can be eaten and the bulb is delicious in a multitude of ways: raw, cooked, pickled, roasted. The New York Times blog has a lovely article on the many uses of kohlrabi – check it out!
adapted from Serious Eats
makes 2 pints (or 1 quart)
1 pound kohlrabi, julienned (using a mandoline slicer or food processor)
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon pickling salt
1 garlic clove, grated
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Wash and dry two pint jars or one quart jar. Evenly divide the julienned kohlrabi to the two pint jars, or to the one quart jar. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan, combine the red wine vinegar, water, honey, pickling salt, grated garlic, grated ginger, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove it from the heat and carefully pour it over the kohlrabi. I find a funnel works best for this.
Screw the lids on the jars and let them sit at room temperature until cooled to the touch. Once cooled, refrigerate the jar(s).