A Blind Culinary Date with Kohlrabi, Mizuna and Bok Choy May Lead to Love

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Ever gone on a blind date and fallen instantly in love? What if you find yourself in a new relationship with strange and wonderful vegetables that you never thought you’d experience? I did!

    As I mentioned in my last sharepost, Dad and I have been participating in a community-supported agriculture program and receive a weekly delivery that often provides some sort of surprise. We’ve tried a bunch of different vegetables that we otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve seen some of these vegetables at the local supermarket, but others were complete mysteries. So here are a few veggies that you might want to try!

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    According to the University of Illinois Extension, kohlrabi is a part of the cabbage family. First grown in Europe around 1500, the vegetable was brought to America around 1800. “It has a turnip-like appearance, with leaves standing out like spokes from the edible portion, which is a rounded, enlarged stem section growing just above the soil line,” the extension website said. “Kohlrabi is sometimes misclassified as a root vegetable.” (The variety that we received in our CSA actually reminded me of a fennel bulb.) 

    According to Self’s Nutrition Data, 1 cup of raw kohlrabi has 36 calories; of that, only one calorie is from fat. That one cup also provides 19 percent of the recommended daily dietary fiber and a whopping 140 percent of the recommended daily vitamin C intake. The website reports, “This food is very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source if Thiamin, Folate, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.”

    This vegetable also may provide substances that help fight cancer. “Kohlrabi contains phytochemicals called isothiocyanates, which may have protective benefits against certain kinds of cancer, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center,” Livestrong.com reported. “Isothiocyanates help with the conversion of estrogen in the body and may also create a barrier against the hormones that are associated with breast and prostate cancers.”

    Livestrong.com notes that the plant’s globe-shaped stem is what’s generally consumed, although the leaves can be added to salads. In addition, kohlrabi comes in different colors. For instance, purple kohlrabi tends to be spicier than the sweeter version of kohlrabi, which is white or light green. I sliced our kohlrabi bulb, added sliced celery, and made a creamy mustard vinaigrette that Deborah Madison recommended in “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” Dad initially wrinkled his nose and asked, “What’s that?” But he ended up really liking the salad.

    Unique Types of Greens

    We’ve had a wide variety of salad greens in our CSA shares that take you on a culinary adventure far from the realm of iceberg lettuce. Some are common, such as spinach, while others – like mizuna (an Asian lettuce) and baby bok choy – are complete surprises. 

    But all promote good health.  “Green leaves are nutrient rich because they contain the light-catching, energy-converting machinery of plants,” Dr. Bunning and Dr. Kendall of the Colorado State University Extension reported. “Salad greens contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, and phytonutrients. Leafy vegetables are a good choice for a healthful diet because they do not contain cholesterol and are naturally low in calories and sodium. Many of the health benefits that leafy greens provide come from phytonutrients, unique compounds that provide protection for plants. These compounds are becoming recognized as part of a nutritious diet that promotes long-term health. Phytonutrients can act as antioxidants, which help to prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.”


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    Interestingly, red and dark green leafy vegetables in general are more nutritious than light-colored greens. And baby greens tend to be more nutritious and milder in flavor than mature greens.

    I stir-fried the mizuna and chopped chicken stir fry in a recipe posted on the Nook and Pantry blog. (Note – it’s good, but I’d recommend adding a little bit of spicy pepper flakes and peanuts to add a little more zest.) I also stir-fried the bok choy in a wonderful recipe by Guy Fieri of the Food Network.

    So be sure to try one of these unusual vegetables in a future meal. You unexpectedly might just fall in love with the produce section of your grocery store or your CSA farmer!




    Throughout February, writers from many of HealthCentral' s communities are writing about sex, romance and the other relationships in your lives and how they interact with your condition. Check out our special Valentine's Day area - new posts will be added every week!

Published On: February 08, 2012

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