It may look like some newfangled breed of brassica.
Yet kohlrabi farmers and fans vaunt the vegetable from a bygone era.
"It used to be more widely available ... a lot of people grew up with it, it seems like," says Anne Marie Ivan, co-owner of Swallow Springs Farm in Wimer.
"The right word for it is 'nostalgic.' "
"My grandpa always grew 'em in his garden," confirms Central Point resident Kristin Hale, who purchased a bunch of Ivan's kohlrabi at the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market in Medford. While her grandfather peeled kohlrabi like an apple and ate it raw, Hale says she likes to dip slices in hummus.
Commonly consumed in no-cook salads and slaws, the knobby, pale-green bulbs also can be steamed, fried or roasted. Wash kohlrabi bulbs right before cooking and trim away the protruding stems.
Small bulbs don't have to be peeled. Larger ones have a tough, outer skin that can be removed with a sharp paring knife.
Kohlrabi's mild flavor — less peppery than cabbage but with a similar sweetness — pleases most palates, and it plays well with other ingredients. Stuff it with ground beef, onions and caraway seeds or add to an Indian-style curry.
Ivan says she likes to make kohlrabi fritters, but her favorite preparation is a "to-die-for" gratin with potatoes. Often treated like a turnip, kohlrabi is an unexpected alternative to more mainstream root vegetables come midwinter.
And like root vegetables and hard-shell squashes, kohlrabi is "a real long keeper," says Ivan, adding that she stored some of last fall's harvest into January. That means the relative of broccoli and cauliflower is a natural fit for the farm's winter community-supported agriculture program, which starts in November. Ivan already is taking subscriptions for Evans Valley CSA, which can serve 30 families.
"As you're enjoying your summer bounty, think about maintaining that winter bounty."
The cold climate of northern Europe is where kohlrabi has its strongest following. More than a thousand years since the French emperor Charlemagne decreed that kohlrabi should be grown in every part of his domain, the vegetable remains most popular in modern-day Germany, which produces 40,000 tons of kohlrabi and also imports it from neighboring countries to satisfy demand. It fell out of favor in other parts of Europe and remains relatively obscure in the United States.
Several kohlrabi varieties grow on Ivan's farm. Purple Kohlibri and light-green Winner arrived at farmers markets in midsummer. Ivan has sold 3-pound bulbs of Gigante at markets for the past few weeks. The price is $1 per pound.
"They're still just like really tender and yummy," she says.
Exposure to frost sweetens kohlrabi and other field crops alike. "Regular staples of the winter local diet" make up Ivan's CSA endeavor with Rogue River's Easy Valley Farm. Intended to fill a family's produce needs, CSA shares also include salad mix and specialty items, such as fermented vegetables and packets of dried fruit and herbs. The cost is $320 for a partial and $480 for a full, with shares allotted every other week over 16 weeks.
"We do a lot of different greens," says Ivan, adding that local foods are "a lot harder to find in the wintertime."
Joining a CSA also supports small farmers during the season when they need to purchase seeds and other equipment. Both Swallow Springs and Easy Valley are pursuing organic certification while adhering to organic practices.
"We're very small-scale; we're very detail-oriented," says Ivan, a Rogue Valley native who founded her farm in 2008 after working as a researcher for Oregon State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
To sign up for Evans Valley CSA, call 541-299-0134 or email email@example.com.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Newsday contributed to this story.