Sputnik: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bulb

Posted on April 10, 2011

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last fall's kohlrabi, found in the bottom of the bin...

last fall's kohlrabi / from the bottom of the bin / but we'll still eat you!

Seed Savers has been our go-to seed buying option recently, but I’ve just come across and am totally curious about the Hudson Valley Seed Library because a) library!? and b) their frameable, local-artist-designed seed packs remind me a whole lot of Dixit, also a new favorite thing.

I’m glad to see they’re working so hard to keep things interesting and posting about new varieties or veg that people might not otherwise try.  (This season, we’re adding ground cherry, strawberry spinach, and star&moon watermelon from seed savers just ’cause they looked so damn cool).  Maybe next time around it’ll have to be kohlrabi — the Seed Library has just about talked me into it: Kohlrabi sliced fresh with Ume Plum vinegar – that sounds fantastic!

And, honestly, kohlrabies (pl?) are one of those veg that just make me laugh.

True story: when we first started getting into CSA and market veg, we got one of those purple kohlrabi in our CSA box .. and had no idea what it was.  It had all the stalks trimmed and looked like a little space ship.  After a lot of fruitless (heh) google searching, know how I found it?  Image search.  “Purple” + “vegetable” + “Sputnik” to be exact.  Yup. Thankfully, someone (several someones) out there think like me.

And, yeah, ok, I know (now) that kohlrabi isn’t all that strange.  (At Thanksgiving a year or so ago, not one, not two, but three generations of the Family broke the Balderdash game by all supplying the actual definition for kohlrabi).  But anyway, it sure does look like and will always be known as sputnik veg to me.  As for what to do with it, I haven’t tried the Ume Vinegar idea yet, but I can vouch for the quick-and-dirty kohlrabi pickle.  Any mellow vinegar will do, so here we’re going to try two versions: rice vinegar, infused with ume plums (cause I’m curious) and a tarragon vinegar that’s been infusing in the cupboard for a few weeks.

What you need:

  • kohlrabi (sputnik or just the regular old green kind, either way).
  • rice vinegar, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Or, an infused vinegar.
  • salt & pepper, or other spices.

peeling kohlrabi

Peel the kohlrabi with a knife, carefully.  (The peel is thick.  You want to make sure you get it all. It won’t taste awful, but the texture isn’t great, so try to get it all).

slicing kohlrabi

Dice, cube, or slice your kohlrabi.  Basically, the smaller the pieces, the quicker it’ll take on the vinegar flavor.  Toss the Kohlrabi slices in vinegar.

adding kohlrabi

Season to taste.  Like the vinegar, how much salt or pepper depends on your taste and you can be playful here.

When I first came across recipes like this for quick pickles, I was worried about the right amount of things like the vinegar or salt.  But, if you’re making these to eat within the week, then the amounts really just depend on your taste — and you can play with that as they age, by adding more salt etc. to the jar.

ume vinegar?

Infused vinegars are another way to play with this.  Here, we’re playing around with letting vinegar sit with ume boshi to see if the flavor will pick up any.  It does a little, though I’m sure if you bought ume boshi vinegar it would pack more punch.

Any mellow vinegar will do the trick.  Plain rice vinegar with salt and pepper is great.  We’ve also tried a tarragon vinegar — which is just fresh tarragon infused in white vinegar for at least a month.  The tarragon mellows out the vinegar more than you might expect, making it really nice for salads — or quick kohlrabi pickles.

tarragon vinegar and kohlrabi

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Posted in: kitchen