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Cooking something new from the farm market: kohlrabi

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The growing season is in full swing, and tables at the local farm market are getting more crowded with vegetables and fruits. A few weeks ago, nearly every table had peas for sale: snap peas, snow peas, and other varieties. Last week, blueberries started showing up.

Julie Grant has been loving it all, but she wanted to add something new to the dinner table. So she picked up a space-age looking veggie, a kohlrabi, at the Canton market, and set out to find some recipes.

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Julie Grant
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I see it, and decide it’s worth a minute to wait in line. I want to find out what it is. It’s got a fist-sized, pale green bulb with large leafy greens shooting up from it. It looks like the bulb might grow underground, but no; there’s a root growing from the bottom of it. The bulb must sit on top the ground. Okay – my turn to talk with the farmer.  

“My name is Brian Bennett, I’m with Bittersweet farm in Heuvelton.  And this is kohlrabi. It was more common years ago, not a lot of people know what it is. My kids call it the alien because of the way it looks," said Bennett. He says his mother and grandmother used to grow a lot of kohlrabi and they would let it grow huge, and tough.  

“And then they’d peel it and cut it up, just like you would potatoes, and boil the life out of it, and feed it to us like boiled cabbage. It’s in same family as cabbage,” said Bennett. According to him, nowadays, most of his customers at the farm market don’t want big tough kohlrabi; they prefer tender, small bulbs.  He weighs a couple. At a dollar a pound, it’s not going to cost me much to try this little experiment.  I get home and google Kohlrabi. Cooking websites suggest roasting the bulb, and sautéing the greens with olive oil and garlic. Sounds pretty good.  

I head up to SUNY Potsdam, to meet with Chef Steven Miacco in the kitchen behind the Dexter Cafe for more ideas. He’s a big guy in comfy pants and crocs. And he’s made a big effort in recent years to use local produce in the food served at the college. I put the kohlrabi on the countertop and ask, "So what do you think when you look at this?"

"Well, kohlroabi can be used for lots of things.  We generally use it here raw.  A little alien looking, but it has a great flavor.  It’s kind of mix between turnup and broccoli.  It goes well with lots of things," said Miacco. "First thing I’m going to do is cut the leaves off.  And remember you can sauté these as you would kale, or any dark green."

Miacco likes to mix some kohlrabi in with his mashed potatoes for flavor. Today, he’s going to make a raw salad with it. He trims off the leaves. He peels the skin off the bulb, and it does look like a turnup. Then he cuts it into little matchsticks.

“Now in this state, too, you could sauté it in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, it’s a good, hot side dish for any meal," said Miacco. "We’re going to use it raw today.”

Miacco pulls out a bowl from the fridge. Earlier, he shaved fennel to mix for the saled. Fennell stalks look kind of like celery, but chopped thinly like this they have good crunch, and a faint licorice taste. Miacco said, “It being summer, and the produce right now, especially kohlrabi and things like that, it’s at its peak and its really really good.  We’re just going to mix up some fennel, green onion, lemon vinegarette.  Great alternative to a green salad, it’s good with fish, a burger, or by itself."

He mixes up the kohlrabi and fennel with the green onion. Miacco describes the vinegrette and says he doesn't wnat to overdress the vegetables. "And the most important thing is tasting. To see if it needs seasoning," said Miacco. It’s lemony and fresh. Hesaid, "Crunchy.  Little salt.  Pepper mill…"

Miacco says there are so many good reasons he and the Potsdam college started buying local produce. It keeps money in the local economy. It means fewer fruits and vegetables don’t have to be shipped across the country. But mostly, he says, it just tastes better. Miacco encourages everyone to give it a try and said, "If you’re going to buy tomatoes, buy at farm market.  Don’t have to buy kohlrabi.  There’s lots of things…put on burger…You won’t regret it…so fresh, tasty.  Can’t go wrong buying local."

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