Plant Name: Brassicaceae (Cruciferae)
Plant Family: Brassicaceae (Cruciferae)
Scientific Name: Brassica oleracea var. caulo-rapa
Kohlrabi was unknown anywhere until 400 to 500 years ago, and is the only common vegetable of Northern European origin.
Kohlrabi is the same species as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. All came from a common parent, "wild cabbage."
The word Kohlrabi is a German word adopted without change into English. "Kohl" means cabbage and "Rabi" meaning turnip. It probably descended from the marrow cabbage, a cold tender, non heading plant with a thick succulent stem. The turnip-like stem which rises above the ground as part of this cabbage was developed in the cool climate of northern Europe during the late 15th century.
A European botanist made the first written description of the vegetable in 1554. Its use spread from Germany to England, Spain, Tripoli and the eastern Mediterranean by the end of the 16th century. In the United States, records of its use go back to 1806.
The plant is easy to grow, and very productive. It is often accepted as a substitute for turnips. Its flavor, is similar to that of the turnip, but it is milder and sweeter when harvested before it becomes too old and tough. Because the part that is eaten forms above ground, it is not prone to the root weevils that plague turnips. It is also less affected by drying winds and heat than other cole crops.
Kohlrabi has not achieved great popularity in the United States, although two main types, the white (which is really light green,) and the purple, are grown here. Europeans often grow them ornamentally cultivating fancy kinds with frilled and deeply cut leaves.
Kohlrabi adds an interesting crunch to salads and can be cooked like a turnip.