Everybody has their share of likes and dislike when it comes to food and it’s no different with us. Occasionally, it happens that all three of us do not like a particular vegetable and so it rarely (if ever) gets bought, cooked or eaten. Beetroot, mushrooms, Ivy Gourd/ Indian Gherkin (Tendli/ Kovakkai), Chayote (Chow-chow/ Bangalore Kathrikkai), Bottle Gourd (Doodhi/ Lauki) and Kohlrabi (Knol-Kohl) are the ones that come to mind immediately.
Ever since I started writing this food blog, and became interested in photography, I have started looking at vegetables differently. I’m not saying we like the “disliked” ones any better but I sometimes buy them in small quantities to find if they prove more exciting through the lens of my camera or perhaps disguised in some dish where no one suspects them of existing!
I have a friendly neighbourhood vegetable lady who provides fodder for my “strange” vegetable adventures by bringing me some of these aforementioned vegetables right to my door, fresh from the fields where they’re grown. My vegetable lady is a nice person but she is shrewd and knows I can sometimes be a bit of a soft touch.
Last week my vegetable lady’s basket seemed to have sprouted a profuse head of interesting variety of green leaves; that’s how it looked to me when I looked down the stairway to see her climbing the stairs with her basket balanced on her head! Apart from the usual spinach, coriander, amaranth and fenugreek leaves, some of the green turned out to be Daikon Radish (mooli) tops and Kohlrabi (Knol-Khol) leaves, both of which are in season now.
It could have been the fact that they were freshly picked from the farm a few hours earlier, but I rather think what made the Knol-Khol irresistible was their strange Kraken-like appearance.
You know how it is. Sometimes, you find something that is sort of repulsive to look at yet it holds a strange fascination that you keep turning back to look at it? Well, that sums it up with the Kohlrabi and me that day.
My vegetable lady took one look at my face and decided that this was one of the days she could mow me down with her sales pitch. She ended up persuading me that I was in for a terrific deal since she was now giving me 4 of those things for the price of 2 that she initially quoted. She also assured me, “Khoob bare asa” meaning that the Knol-Khol were very good!!
Let’s just say that I buckled to my fascination with the vegetable, her sales techniques, and then spent the better part of the morning wondering just how to take a decent picture of the Kohlrabi. If you are new to this vegetable, the name Kohlrabi comes from German for “Kohl”meaning cabbage and “Rabi” meaning turnip. It does look like a hybrid of the two with turnip-like shape and the leaf arrangement is somewhat like that of a cabbage if you stretch your imagination a bit.
The Kohlrabi is actually the stem part of the vegetable and I understand the leaves of the young/ tender vegetable can be used in salads. I had no idea how to cook Kohlrabi but it now turns out that there are at least a hundred (maybe I am exaggerating) different ways of cooking it.
A strategy that mostly work for me with a vegetable that is new to us, or not much liked by anyone, is to cook it such that it is disguised either in taste or appearance or both if possible. So I cooked the Kohlrabi into a “kootu”, which is a Palakkad Iyer style of preparing certain vegetables (mostly of the gourd family) with lentils and a spicy coconut gravy. It worked!
I think I might have to take Kohlrabi off that list of “unmentionable” vegetables, and you might just be seeing a lot more of this vegetable here, in my virtual kitchen.