What do you get when you cross a cabbage and a turnip?
Neither its appearance nor name will provide you any clues--unless, of course, you speak German.
It's kohlrabi. German translation: "cabbage turnip."
Though kohlrabi (pronounced coal-ROB-ee) looks like a root vegetable, it is not. And it certainly holds little likeness to a head of cabbage. Its bulb-shaped section is actually a swollen stem formed aboveground and is the base for its leaf stalks.
A native of northern Europe, the whole kohlrabi plant--except for the slender root--is edible.
With a mild turnip-like flavor, the bulb can be served in a number of dishes after the fibrous outer skin is pared away.
"It's good just to slice up and add it to a fresh vegetable tray," said Roger Queen, who grows half an acre of kohlrabi in Somis.
"Most people seem to cook it, though," he said.
Cooking methods include stuffing, steaming or embellishing with a favorite sauce, even boiling and mashing like potatoes. Kohlrabi can also be diced and added to stews and stir-fry dishes.
"It's not a visually appealing vegetable," Queen said, "but people really enjoy it."
Queen suggests preparing the leaves as you would the tops of other vegetables. "Use them like you would chard or beet tops," he said. They can also be added to soups and stews.
Queen grows two varieties of kohlrabi, one green, the other the color of red cabbage.
"The taste doesn't differ much between the two," Queen said.
Although kohlrabi will grow much larger, he said to choose handball-sized bulbs.
"That's when they're nice and tender," Queen said. "If they're too large, they tend to be woody."
Also, select those with fresh, unblemished leaves, he said.
Queen offers the vegetable at the Ventura, Camarillo and soon-to-open Oxnard farmers markets. Price: 75 cents a bunch--about three bulbs.
The Channel Islands Chapter of the California Native Plant Society will offer a wide selection of California native plants for sale Saturday.
The sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ventura High School parking lot, 2155 E. Main St. in Ventura. Featured are water-conserving and drought-tolerant plants, including ground covers, annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and vines.
According to chapter President Connie Rutherford, native varieties help ensure the survival of landscaping exposed to adverse conditions.
"Besides being drought-tolerant, native plants are better adapted to California conditions," she said. "Since they evolved here, they have adapted to temperature cycles and are resistant to pathogens found in the area."
Society members and nursery employees will be on hand to answer questions on native plant gardening. For more information, call 643-5007.
SERVING SUGGESTIONKOHLRABI AND MUSHROOMS
4 medium-size kohlrabi
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
7 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoons dry basil or oregano leaves
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese
Peel and thinly slice kohlrabi. You should have three cups. Melt butter in a wide frying pan over high heat. Add kohlrabi and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add water and basil; cover and cook for four minutes, stirring often. Add mushrooms, cover and cook, stirring often, until kohlrabi is tender when pierced (about four more minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper, pour into a serving dish, and sprinkle with cheese. Makes four to six servings.