Le Chou-Rave

Le chou-rave — in English kohlrabi or cabbage turnip — is my greatest vegetable discovery for this winter. Although its name would indicate that it is a root vegetable (“rave” means “root”, as in betterave [beetroot] or celeri-rave [celeryroot]) it is in fact a surface vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family. It is also exceptionally rich in vitamins and nutrients.

I first spotted it in the display of my favorite produce stall at the market, and was initially drawn to it because of its interesting look — a plump pastel green body with graceful little arms shooting up from all sides and twirling around, ending in large green leaves. I asked the stall keeper about them, the one who’s so pretty and has a smile so fresh you would swear she just hopped right out of the salad crates, the one who’s always glad to advise about cooking methods and recipes (I usually pretend I’m not quite ready until she’s available to take my order).

She explained that the greens are edible and can be used like parsley, while the best use for the body is to peel it, slice it thinly, and eat the slices raw with a little fleur de sel sprinkled on top. This came as a surprise, it sounded like such a summery use for what I had imagined to be a root vegetable, destined for boiling and stewing and roasting (all methods you could also apply to our friend the chou-rave).

I promptly tried this at home and from then on became a die-hard fan of raw chou-rave. The flesh is crunchy like a radish but it has none of the radish’s peppery bite, and its flavor is sweet and subtly nutty. The slices are moist enough that you can press them gently onto a little pile of salt so a few flakes will stick, a beautifully complement in terms of taste and texture.

But my personal preference, for a tasty and healthy appetizer, is to match it with spirulina gomasio — my greatest condiment discovery for this winter.

  • Super, I had two of them in my Campanier basket. Must try them.

  • labracherie

    Hello Clotilde,
    désolé pour le français, mais la belle photo du chou-rave m’interpelle, est il possible d’avoir une photo de ta cuisinière dans un prochain message ?
    Juste une curiosité bien mal placée !!
    Merci, super site !

  • naomi

    hi – i discovered them this winter too. my organic vegetable market trader suggested using them in a stir fry. they work really well as they maintain their crunchiness and so contrast nicely with beansprouts, spinach, mushrooms and other softer veg. as long as you don’t over flavour the stirfry, the subtlety of the kohlrabi’s flavour is also maintained.

  • Oh, what a good idea! I completely forgot about eating it raw! Very refreshing too.

  • Anja

    In Danish they’re called ‘glaskål’ – literally glass cabbage! I’ve only come across them once, and was fascinated by their look – alien vegetables… Incidentally, kohlrabi in Norwegian (spelled ‘kålrabi’) is a large root vegetable, which is orange on the inside and full of vitamin C. I can’t remember their English name. In Denmark they are fed to cattle, but in the North of Norway (and during the war, I suppose) they have always been a reliable source of vitamins during long, cold winters. Kohlrabi mash (‘kålrabistappe’!) is really, really good with the smoked lamb ribs that are traditionally eaten at Christmas in many areas of Norway.

    Sorry to be going on and on like this, please bear with me :)

  • corey

    hmm, I have never seen the like here in america. That certainly does not mean that we dont have them, but at the very least they are not very common.

  • Anu

    Indian readers of your blog will recognize this vegetable as “knolkhol” (isn’t that a charming little name for it?)

    Love your blog, and you write so exquisitely, it’s always a wonderful way to start the day with it.

  • becky

    I understand if you can’t, but would you share the html color code of the light sage/green background you use on this site? It’s lovely.

  • Yummy! I like kohlrabi raw also, with a bit of salt, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. In Chinese we call it “big head vegetable.” Very apt, don’t you think?

  • Ann/brighidsdaughter

    I almost bought some of this yesterday. Central Market (Dallas, TX) had the cutest little bunches of baby kohlrabi in both green and purple varieties. I must get some next time I’m there. I’ve never eaten it raw before but think it would be delightful.

  • boreal

    Oh they’re my favorite too! Love love love em. I tend to grow my own since they’re sporatically sold in the winter here in various stores depending where I shop, etc. If they get too big, they get ‘pithy’, but otherwise, to me, they’re like a sweet tender delicious turnip. They come in purple too. And there is also a ‘giant’ form which stays tender at a very very large size. (that one is also a lime green.) Its very useful to plant and then just forget about it until everything else is harvested and its about to bolt and then pull it and have a giant kohlrabi slaw fest! (I love it in slaw like cole slaw too, considering I think its a member of the cabbage family..? It works great.) So delicious though, yummo! Everyone should be looking for these and enjoying them. SOOOO easy to grow for the gardeners out there!

  • Boreal

    Ah, the giant one I am thinking of is a Czechoslovakian heirloom. I think american seed catalogs have simplified the name to ‘giagante’, but it used to be something like ‘supersmeltz’ or something… There’s only one sold that is that ‘giant’ form. And quite a few cultivars of the smaller variety in green and purple, but I will just buy whichever one is available where I’m buying… there isn’t much of a difference in the smaller cultivars.

  • lil

    these grew in my parents’ garden last year – they dubbed the ones with the largest ‘arms’ “spacemen”!

  • so glad i’ve discovered your blog and i will try this little gem when i next see it in the marches de provence. meanwhile have become completely luny about cardoons (cardes?)….do you do cardoons? they’re a bit ugly but taste like jerusalem artichokes without the you know what nasty side effect.

  • In China we call this ‘tai to chai’, which literally means ‘big head veggie’. We do stir fry it occasionally but we rarely eat it raw; yet, the most popular way to treat this is to have it preserved with salt or other condiments (turning gold or light brown in color) and then eat it along with congee. Always fun to see how the east and west eat the same food in different style.

  • Mary

    They are very common in the Southern US, but not being from the South, I had no idea what to do with them. Will try your suggestion and especially like the high nutritional trend you are taking.

  • Zsofia

    this is funny..in my country,Hungary this is one of the most common vegetables (called karalabe), we use it a lot and in many forms. The most typical is a vegetable stew: we cook the vegetable in small cubes in some chicken stock and then we thicken it with flour and sour cream. And put a lot lot of choped parsley in it. And the best one: the stuffed karalabe -the same method as above but you make a whole in the kohlrabi, stuff it with ground meat and herbs and then cook it with the inside pieces around and thicken it at the end. hmmm..it is soo wonderful, you have to try it!

  • Apart from eating kohlrabi raw, people here in Germany tend to serve it blanched with a white cream sauce of some sort—essentially served like asparagus with sauce béchamel, but I suppose a lighter sauce would better suit my taste. I’ve had any number of meals consisting of poached fish, kohlrabi in cream sauce, and boiled potatoes. This is pretty standard fare starting in Alsace and probably ending somewhere short of Khazakstan. ;)

  • elizabeth

    When I lived in Paris, I found delicious salad with mayo, vinegar, sugar & mustard. I am sure this is same as celoriac ?!? very thin match-stick mariated in the sauce & I always bought it for lunch at
    Chuctrie (??). It was delicious

  • Anne

    I found mine at Whole Foods. Cooked them for the first time last night. Husband says it’s his favorite vegetable now. Saute them (sliced) in a little butter until nicely brown. Add a little chicken broth to deglaze and season. They’re great.

  • JulieTabouli

    You know what I just learned in my plant class? Broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale, brussels sprouts, and cabbage are all the same species! Whoa–but they look so totally different. It just goes to show the amazing variations that can result when humans play with evolution and select for traits that make good eatin’.
    Mmmm I’m thinking the raw kohlrabi slices would be good with a dressing of olive oil/lemon/light garlic.

  • Hi Clothilde !
    Never heard about “Chou-rave” before wandering on your blog. Thank you for this ! This vegetable is delicious.
    Surprisingly I’ve been delivered with Chou-Rave with my weekly vegetables delivery. There was an original recipe of “Chou-rave, pomme de terre et jus de viande” that I’ve realised today. You can see a picture on my newly created blog : Frais ! (www.fredkitchen.canalblog.com).
    Cheers !

  • Kiwi

    Have been trying to work out whether this chou-rave/kohlrabi is what we enjoyed grated in a salad as a starter in a restaurant in Bruges, Belgium. It was lovely but the waiter wasn’t able to give us an english name for it. My guess is that this is it – I suppose the key is what dressing to serve it with.

  • Clothilde

    Je suis contente de rencontrer une fana du chou-rave comme moi. C’est trop bon!

Get the newsletter

Receive FREE email updates with all the latest recipes, plus exclusive inspiration and Paris tips. You can also choose to be notified when a new post is published.

View the latest edition of the newsletter.