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Short journal entries detailing the nuts and bolts of our ventures in growing food at our micro-farm

Entries in kohlrabi (2)


Winter's Sweet Frosty Kiss: The Transformation of Kale

A few weeks ago I gave a lecture to some physicians and acupuncturists about the integration of food and farming in medicine.  My first slides were pictures of certain vegetables in their entirety (roots, stems and leaves) and I started the talk with a game: Let’s identify that vegetable!  The first was this series of pictures:



No one was able to identify this as kohlrabi.  An under appreciated vegetable here in this country, it is usually sold as a round light green bulb.  Rarely do people see the growing form which looks not dissimilar to a UFO.  I fell in love with this shade-tolerating vegetable after I made my first meal of kohlrabi pancakes with minted yogurt.

The second vegetable in the game:

More easily identifiable, but with a little hesitation.  Everyone knows what broccoli looks like, of course, but I was stunned this summer when my brother stood at the end of a raised bed filled with broccoli and could not identify the vegetable - it was in its growing form that confused him.  The head which we eat is surrounded by multiple big waxy leaves and that’s what threw him off.

My whole point with the above lessons was that we have become so dissociated with what we eat. Such that it is to the point that items like plastic-wrapped yams are conveniently pre-wrapped so they can be easily be put in the microwave and further separate the consumer from the actual vegetable. Another disheartening example is a packaged steak which appears as nothing more than a soft red wet mass of muscle; no thought is paid that it came from anything resembling an animal and even less thought to how it was raised, fed and slaughtered.

I then showed a video of a new product called “Fruit 2 Day” a fruit containing beverage the advertiser touted as a “new way to eat fruit”. The video begins with a young girl looking disgusted at a bunch of moldy strawberries she finds in her fridge. 


The piece de resistance was in the subtle last statement of the commercial: “find it in the produce section.”  Our perceptions of what is healthy, fresh and what is REAL food is persistently and indolently being manipulated by media and advertising.  Sadly, most of us don’t know what real food is anymore and when we’re given it, we’re not sure what to do with it.  Case in point: Kale.

One physician told me that she disliked getting so much kale in her CSA basket.  How many times can you blanch and saute it with garlic and onions?  Not only was it a non-versatile vegetable for her, she couldn’t get her husband to eat it and forget about even presenting it to the kids.  I challenged that assumption and could because I was once in her shoes standing there among the abundant kale in my farm not sure how to make it interesting enough to serve it with any frequency.  But I persevered, scouring through cookbooks, recipe websites and pinning down every vegetarian I knew, asking them - “what is your favorite thing to do with kale?”  Now I am a kale convert and the last recipe I made with kale and quinoa was so simple and the kale so sweet from the frost that my better half emphatically jumped up declaring his new found love of kale.  No, not anything like Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch, but hey, for a carnivore loving man to express delight over one of the most healthiest things you could possible eat, that made all my kale research and experimentation worthwhile.  Now he can proudly wear his “Eat More Kale” T-shirt with newfound pride. He looks hot in it as well.  Eat More Kale!

There are advantages to living in colder climates (not many for every type of food grower, I admit) and that is frost’s effects on certain vegetables, not to mention forcing us to experiment with growing cold tolerant vegetables we might otherwise avoid.   Certain things get sweeter when exposed to frost: carrots, turnips, parsnips, brussels sprouts and kale.  In an effort to survive the colder temperatures, the plant begins to convert its starches to sugars because sugar has a lower freezing point.  Carrots become like candy and kale becomes king.  That’s one thing California and Florida can’t top! 

So you’re still waiting for those kale recipes, I know.  Some of my favorites are the above-mentioned “One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf” on my new favorite foodie blog Food 52.  Trust me, you can force down a lot of kale this way and people won’t even know it.  Then there’s the now ubiquitous kale chips with its infinite variations. I give credit to the first person who fed these to me, Dan Barber, in this recipe.  Kids won’t know the difference between their other starchy crunchies and these healthy bad boys.  My nephew Max, pickiest eater in the universe, can attest to that.  After Thanksgiving, using the turkey carcass, I made Alice Water’s Turkey Soup with Kale (and doubled the amount of kale).  Kale can be thrown in with many other brothy soups as well to give it a  balancing vegetable component.  But the most interesting recent recipe was recently published by the New York Times: Grilled Coconut Kale by Vij’s in Vancouver, British Columbia - one of the best Indian food meals I’ve ever had.  I served it along side curried chickpeas and basmati rice.  Heavenly. 

My hopes to you for the holiday season: find a way to get this important vegetable on your table and enjoy the way nature has changed it for you, just in time when most of our produce is no longer locally grown, so you can continue fresh local greens throughout the chill and support our local food movement.


3 bunches kale
3 cans coconut milk
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp mild paprika
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Wash the kale thoroughly and cut out the stalks. Cut the wide leaves into strips the width of the small leaves.
2. In a large pot set over a low flame, heat the coconut milk until it is thoroughly mixed and just lukewarm. Transfer to a large, nonreactive bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir in the kale, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

I used a large roasting pan to accommodate all the kale

3. Preheat a grill or a cast-iron grill pan over high heat. Remove the kale from the refrigerator and stir to make sure the leaves are well covered in marinade. Using metal tongs, place the kale on the grill in a single layer. Cook for 45 to 60 seconds, or until the leaves are sizzling, then turn over and grill the other side for another 45 to 60 seconds, or until the leaves have visibly softened. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Adapted from Vij’s Restaurant, Vancouver, British Columbia.

The slightly burned edges made the dish



Cheers to the one thing we can’t live without: Good Health



Weekly Musings: Kohlrabi - What the Hell is That?

Kids call this the flying saucer vegetableOne of the many things I’ve learned from having a micro-farm is being forced to explore my boundaries. I have a constant curiosity about things and a love of learning.  I guess that’s how I went from English Major in college to advertising post college, to medical school, to holistic/integrative medicine, to farmer.  This has applied to, among other things, food.  While I’m not quite as adventurous as insect-organ-rodent eating Andrew Zimmern of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, I could be persuaded to, at least, try many cultural delicacies.  But one does not have to venture far from the beaten path to explore the vast varieties of vegetables available either at farmer’s markets or to be grown at home.  Kohlrabi is one of the vegetables I’ve been introduced to in the last 2 years that I have really come to love.  Prior to this, I had never heard of or eaten Kohlrabi and was skeptical of this sci-fi looking bulb with it’s big leafy protrusions.  But as I experimented with it, it has now been added to my repertoire of cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables in addition to being a good source of fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamins C and A.

In my practice, I see a fair amount of people with different cancers in different stages and one of the things that they are most interested in when seeking unconventional therapies or ways in which they might complement their existing allopathic treatments, is what they should eat to support their bodies.  One of the family of vegetables that I always stress, based on current research, are the family of cruciferous vegetables also known as brassicas.  The phytochemicals most notably important are indole-3-carbinol and isothiocyanates which, on a cellular level, may lead to the arrest and death of cancer cells.  Patients are always surprised to learn about the variety of brassicas available, aside from the usual broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.  Well, we can now add kohlrabi to the list.  It’s important when modifying one’s diet to rotate foods if not for anything other than avoiding sheer boredom.  When you present variety and surprise, people are less apt to revert to their usual poor eating choices.

Kohlrabi: The Basics

Kohlrabi are European in origin.  The name translates to “cabbage-turnip” in German but found its way to Northern Indian in the late 17th century.  But to this day, Kohlrabi is still an unknown to most people in the US.  That was proven when I went to Chelsea Market -- the ultimate foodie’s shopping paradise in the trendy Meatpacking district of Manhattan and home to the Food TV Network.  When I’m planning on pairing a dinner I rely on two people to turn to for exquisite pairings: my local connect Joe Printz at Grape D’Vine in Tappan NY and Chelsea Wine Vault at Chelsea Market.  So I asked the staff at Chelsea Wine Vault for a pairing with my kohlrabi cakes.  “What’s kohlrabi?” he asked.  Puzzled, he referred me to an even more experienced pairer who pairs wine for the Food Network TV, and who also wasn’t sure what kohlrabi was. After a description of the taste of the veggie - a cross between broccoli stems and turnips, he made a pairing that was right on.  

Kohlrabi is a pale green bulb (or purple) that forms from the stem just above the soil and is best eaten small (2-3” in diameter) in warm weather since it can become woody in texture if grown any larger.  But cooler weather allows the stem to get larger without the change in consistency.  Usually, it is grated raw for salads and coleslaw or chopped and used as a component in stir-fry dishes.  The leaves, if young, can be used in the same way as kale.  I like to find other ways to prepare kohlrabi and my favorite one is kohlrabi cakes with minted yogurt sauce (see below)

Growing/Harvest/Storage Tips:

This easy to grow vegetable can withstand shady areas so I often tuck it in places along the fence where nothing else will flourish.  Though this can be direct seeded, I like to start indoors in soil blocks 4-5 weeks before transplanting out both in the cool spring weather and again in the late summer for a fall harvest.  Quick to mature (50-65 days), the varieties I’ve grown most successfully is “Kossack” and I’m experimenting with the purple variety “Kohlibri“.  If grown in warmer weather, be sure to harvest when small (2-2.5” diameter).  The bulb will be more forgiving in the fall when you can allow it to get as large as 4” and still retain the sweet and crunchy consistency.  Bulbs can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks but only with their leaf stems removed.


Young fall purple kohlrabi
Recipe: Kohlrabi Cakes with Minted Yogurt Sauce

4 Kohlrabi bulbs (approximately 1.5 lbs)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbs bread crumbs
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup of oil for frying (I use grapeseed or rice bran oil)
1 1/2 cups of minted yogurt sauce

Peel (for large bulbs) and shred kohlrabi and set aside in colander to drain for 30 minutes.  Squeeze out any excess moisture
Combine kohlrabi with scallions, eggs, bread crumbs, ginger and red pepper flakes, S &P.  Blend well in a mixing bowl.
Heat oil in large skillet and drop mixture to preferred size  until golden, 3-5 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve with yogurt sauce.

Minted Yogurt Sauce:

Combine 1 1/2 cups of greek yogurt with 1/4 cup chopped mint, 1 Tbs lemon juice and 1/2 tsp of salt and black pepper to taste..  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Shiela Lukins


Farmer Pam, MD