No One Likes Kohlrabi
No one likes kohlrabi-or at least very few people do. How many of us have any idea of what it looks like-or have ever touched, cooked, or eaten one? Not all vegetables are created equal. We are almost all madly in love with fresh corn at the height of the season, local heirloom tomatoes, and foraged wild mushrooms. We thrill at Farmers markets that abound with dozens of different lettuce varieties. In the spring our hearts are lifted by the arrival of local asparagus, and this helps give us the strength to get through mud season. But how many delight in cabbage, kohlrabi, or kale? The fact is we play favorites with vegetables, and some are either tough to sell, or just donít appeal to most of us.
One of the most popular dishes in summer is a plate of sliced local heirloom tomatoes sampler, with the obligatory shredded basil, and fresh mozzarella. It can be served with just red tomatoes, but what really makes the dish is an array of green, yellow, and orange tomatoes. Admittedly not the most original dish, it is one that nonetheless many people find appealing. There isnít really any cooking involved at all-it is mostly a question of selecting the best and ripest locally grown tomatoes. Nothing better proves the maxim that simple is better. Itís on the Cafť menu every summer, at least when there isnít a tomato blight, and is consistently very popular. Our local farmers really shine in this area, and it is practically a requirement of summer.
But would you order a cucumber sampler? Well, not many people did when we featured it as a special. The idea is the same-a chance to taste several different and interesting varieties of locally grown, organic heirloom cucumbers. Farm Girl Farm grows heirloom cucumbers in amazingly different sizes, shapes and colors. They range from almost white to pale yellow, to pale green and dark green, and have great names like Boothbyís Blondes and Super Zagross. Some are baseball shaped; others look more like baseball bats. As a Chef, the notion of sampling different varieties of the same food is intriguing, whether itís wine grapes, tomatoes, or cucumbers. While we sell cabernet, merlot, and pinot noir, and lots of tomato samplers, a plate of heirloom cucumbers is not a popular dish.
And if thatís true of cucumbers, what then of the poor kohlrabi? Grated raw and eaten in or mixed with a slaw, kohlrabi has a taste akin to cabbage with a little horseradish root. You have to search long and far to find kohlrabi in a supermarket,
let alone on a restaurant menu. If you do encounter it on a restaurant menu, it probably being used by an ambitious chef searching for an ingredient that might shock diners into attention. Featured in some outrageous fashion, it is designed to be provocative and attention getting. Yes, kohlrabi crème brulee is something youíve never seen or tried before, and it is truly an original idea, but youíll probably order the chocolate cake instead-for good reason.
A restaurant or farm have finite resources, and neither can devote too much time, space and energy to selling or serving what eating public isnít interested in. That is partly what shapes restaurant menus and farmers market offerings. People vote with their wallets - and we simply like some vegetables more than others. If you donít believe me, go ask the rutabagas and the lima beans.
As we approach the end of tomato season with heavy hearts, I offer the following recipe for slow oven roasted tomatoes, which is a way to extend and preserve the seasonís bounty.