It was with a mixed feeling of some excitement and nervous apprehension when I arrived home yesterday from 10 days in Mallorca…what had given me these feelings, you may ask? Burglary? Perhaps…the rent money? maybe. It was in fact the garden. Who would have thought that something like that would play with my emotions in such a cruel way? I never thought that something so insignificant would cause such a stir, but the simple fact is my garden has become something very dear to me for two simple reasons; firstly it is there because with a bit of hard work I made it so and secondly because it provides me with food on my table twice a day. So, to a certain degree it is a lifeline and at the same time it is my baby!
I had no qualms about my veggies not getting the drink they deserve; there has been more than enough harsh weather in the last week. So it was with sheer delight I noticed some of my beefsteak tomatoes where coming out, a bunch of courgettes had started to push through, the salad leaves were standing proud and last but by no means least the kohlrabi was looking just about big enough to sample…
When I say sample I mean try for the very first time, I must say it was a bit of a gamble to take on a vegetable I had never tasted and dedicate a section of my patch to it. All I knew was that it was a cross between a cabbage and a turnip and should not be left to grow bigger than a cricket ball as it starts to become woody and tasteless. You may call me superficial for wanting to add it to my patch because it looks quite cool and funky as vegetables go, but you cannot deny me the fact that I was taking an adventurous gamble into the unknown. The name kohlrabi is German in its origin kohl meaning cabbage and rabi meaning turnip. This amazing looking plant is part of the super food group of the brassicas family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts) so it is undeniably good for you. Both the spherical, knobbly, sputnik-shaped root of the plant and the leaves are edible in its entirety…great! Although I have never come across it in a supermarket, I am sure it is readily available in farmers markets and in the smoke of London town you may find it in Borough market or our new American happy shopper the Whole foods market.
As I parted the leaves that shot up form the plant below I got my first look at the treasure that had evaded my lips for so long, there were a few that were a little bigger than golf balls and were ripe for the plucking, lets not be greedy I thought, just the one for now. As you can eat it both raw and cooked I felt the best thing to do would to make a starter out of it and use both leaves and root for my first taste of this unusual vegetable.
So after pulling my first kohlrabi from the ground I decided to chop the root in half and chop into thin slices and scatter over the chopped up leaves. A light dressing of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a little salt and pepper seemed appropriate. Of course I tried it before dressing it and I was shocked by the sweetness it possessed, but then again you will never get the same sweetness from any vegetable that has been shop bought, as I have mentioned before 20 minutes after being plucked from the earth the vegetables natural sugars begin to revert to starch.
Once dressed I sat down in the garden to enjoy the fruits of my labour, a truly wonderful experience, I often get a weird sense of excitement when trying something for the first time and this was no exception. The flavour is tremendous, very cabbage like with the texture of a turnip and a natural sweetness I have only tasted in fresh asparagus. I think it would be a shame, nay an insult to cook this gorgeous little morsel, so it will remain eaten raw for as long as it lasts, I will most certainly be growing more in the future and I think it will be a firm favourite in my gardens to come. I may even bring myself to cook them in a way I can do them justice, but until that time I have the rest of the summer to enjoy the wonder that is kohlrabi and maybe some of my friends might just be lucky enough to have a taste too…but some how I just don’t know if I have enough to go round!