Growing up, kohlrabi was not on our vegetable rotation. My guess is that it just wasn't available at the grocery stores my mother frequented, because we ate nearly everything else.
I knew how to scrape the meat from a butter-dipped artichoke leaf when I was four and fell hard for the slightly sweet crunch of jicama when I was six. But we didn't eat kohlrabi.
I didn't come face to face with it until my first CSA share, sometime in the fall of 2008. That batch was a pale green and confounded me for a day or two, until I decided to just slice it up and eat it raw with hummus. It was clean tasting and was more about texture than flavor.
If you've never encountered kohlrabi before, it's a nearly round vegetable that is about the size of a tennis ball (though I have seen a few that are nearly softball-sized). You'll sometimes find it with its series of stems and leaves intact, though many farmers take the time to trim those away before bringing their crop to market. It comes in a variety of shades of green and purple.
A few weeks ago, I spotted a display of purple kohlrabi at one of my local farmers' markets. Remembering it to be a wonderfully crunchy vegetable, I bought a few to try as a quick pickle (hearty, crunchy vegetables make the best pickles because they retain their texture even after a bit of heat is applied).
Since then, I've made this pickle three times. I eat it by the forkful as if it were a pickled salad or coleslaw. Heap it into tacos. Stir it into chicken salad.
Because kohlrabi is in the brassica family, I made it as an unprocessed pickle to keep that signature cabbage stink from developing strongly. It seems to have worked, because I really can't keep my fork away from this one.
Before You Get Started
When you're picking out your kohlrabi, look for bulbs that are firm to the touch and without any sponge-y spots.
Before you shred your kohlrabi, use a paring knife to trim away any flaws. They don't need to be peeled, but the spots where the stems were attached have a tendency to get a bit slimy if stored for too long, so make sure to cut that away.
I used purple kohlrabi this time but have made this with green as well. They are interchangeable, so buy whatever looks best. If you can't find kohlrabi, try this pickle using broccoli stems. They're similar in flavor and texture.
Get the Recipe
About the author: Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated pickler who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars.