Kohlrabi vs Turnip

Kohlrabi and turnip, two vegetables often found mingling in the same culinary circles, may resemble each other at a casual glance, but they are distinct in both taste and nutritional profile.

Kohlrabi, with its slightly sweeter and milder flavor, is a stout, round vegetable with a thick skin that can range from pale green to purple, with long, leafy stems. It’s not a root vegetable unlike the turnip and is often eaten raw, contributing a crunchy texture and a hint of sweetness to salads and slaws.

A kohlrabi and turnip face off in a garden, with their vibrant green and purple hues contrasting against the earthy soil

Turnips, on the other hand, are root vegetables with a flavor profile that is more pungent and sometimes slightly bitter, especially when eaten raw.

The nutritional merits of both vegetables include being low in calories; however, kohlrabi provides you with higher protein and dietary fiber content per 100g serving.

While kohlrabi boasts about 1.7g of protein and approximately 3.6g of fiber, turnips offer about 0.9g of protein and 1.8g of fiber.

Classification and Botany

In your exploration of kohlrabi and turnip, you’ll find that both belong to the Brassica family, known for their nutritional and edible roots. These root vegetables hold unique properties and distinctions in their classification and physical attributes.

Family and Genus

Kohlrabi and turnip are part of the Brassica genus, which belongs to the Brassica family, also known as the cabbage family. This family includes a variety of other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.

  • Kohlrabi is classified as Brassica oleracea, and it’s specifically known as var. gongylodes. It’s commonly referred to as German turnip.
  • Turnip, on the other hand, is known scientifically as Brassica rapa subsp. rapa, and is a traditional root vegetable that has been cultivated for centuries.

Plant Characteristics

When observing plant characteristics, kohlrabi and turnip display several unique features that distinguish them from other members of the Brassica family.

  • Kohlrabi: Appearances can be deceiving; though it resembles a root vegetable, the part of kohlrabi you consume is actually a swollen stem. It can come in a variety of colors, including green and purple kohlrabi.
  • Turnip: This plant is a true root vegetable. In its first year, the turnip stores nutrients in its root, which is harvested for consumption. If left to grow into its second year, it would produce flowers and seeds.

Nutritional Profiles

Kohlrabi and turnip sit side by side, with nutritional labels displayed above them

When comparing kohlrabi and turnip, you’ll find that both vegetables offer unique nutritional benefits. Understanding their nutritional content can help you make informed decisions about incorporating them into your diet.

Macronutrients and Calories

Kohlrabi provides a slightly higher protein content than turnip, with approximately 1.7 grams per 100 grams compared to turnip’s 0.9 grams. Both vegetables are low in calories and sugar, making them suitable for a weight management diet.

Vitamins and Minerals

In terms of vitamin C, kohlrabi is particularly rich, covering 46% more of your daily needs than turnip. It’s also a good source of various B vitamins such as folate (B9), vitamin B6, and vitamin B1.

Turnips provide a decent amount of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, but not as much fiber or vitamin C as kohlrabi.

NutrientKohlrabi (per 100g)Turnip (per 100g)
Vitamin CSignificantly higherLower
B VitaminsPresentPresent
CalciumPresentPresent
PotassiumPresentPresent
MagnesiumPresentPresent

Dietary Fiber and Antioxidants

Kohlrabi is rich in dietary fiber, containing about 3.6 grams per 100 grams. In comparison, turnip contains roughly 1.8 grams of fiber per 100 grams.

Both kohlrabi and turnip are sources of antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C, which can contribute to protecting your cells from oxidative damage. Turnips also offer vitamin K, folate, and manganese, contributing to your overall nutrient intake.

Health Benefits

A kohlrabi and turnip sit side by side on a wooden cutting board, surrounded by leafy green stems. The kohlrabi is bulbous with pale green skin, while the turnip is round and purple with a white interior

When exploring the health benefits of kohlrabi and turnip, you’re considering two nutrient-rich vegetables that can play a significant role in maintaining and improving your well-being.

Cardiovascular Health

Kohlrabi and turnips contain components beneficial for your heart’s health. Kohlrabi is a good source of potassium, which can help in managing blood pressure levels by countering the effects of sodium.

Turnips also bring in their share of benefits, providing fiber, which contributes to regulating cholesterol levels, a key factor in cardiovascular health.

  • Potassium: Essential for heart function, found abundantly in kohlrabi.
  • Fiber: Helps in lowering cholesterol, found in both kohlrabi and turnips.

Digestive Health

The fiber found in both kohlrabi and turnip is instrumental in supporting your digestive health. By adding bulk to the stool, it assists in preventing constipation and maintaining a healthy digestive tract.

  • Fiber:
    • Kohlrabi: Approx. 3.6g per serving
    • Turnip: Approx. 1.8g per serving

Bone Strength and Repair

Turnips are not only supportive of cardiovascular and digestive health, but they also contribute to bone strength by offering a good supply of calcium.

Additionally, both kohlrabi and turnips provide vitamin K, which is crucial for bone repair and health.

Culinary Uses

In your culinary adventures, recognizing the versatility of kohlrabi and turnip can expand your repertoire of dishes. Each brings unique textures and flavors to both traditional and modern recipes.

Traditional Preparations

Kohlrabi:

  • Raw: Often used in slaws or salad, the bulb offers a crunchy texture similar to broccoli stems and cabbage.
  • Cooked: Can be steamed, boiled, or roasted. When cooked, its sweetness intensifies, making it a comforting addition to stews and soups.

Turnip:

  • Greens: Turnip greens can be sautéed in oil with garlic for a nutritious side dish.
  • Bulb: The bulb is excellent when mashed, boiled, or added to soups for a mild, piquant flavor.

Modern Recipes

Kohlrabi:

  • Works well in stir-fries, where its ability to absorb flavors complements a variety of ingredients.
  • Can be julienned for a fresh take on salads and slaws, enhancing dishes with its succulent crunchiness.

Turnip:

  • Roasted turnip pieces can add depth to salads or serve as a low-carb potato substitute in recipes.
  • Try it raw, thinly sliced or chopped to bring a zippy freshness to contemporary salad creations.

Alternative Uses

Kohlrabi:

  • Peel and cut into sticks for a crunchy snack or use in place of broccoli stems in broccoli slaw recipes.
  • Bulb and leaves: Utilize both for their nutritional value; leaves can be prepared like collard greens.

Turnip:

  • Incorporate mashed turnip into dishes for a healthier twist or roast with herbs to enhance their natural flavor.
  • Smaller varieties are perfect for pickling, offering a zesty and tangy component to dishes.

Physical Attributes

A kohlrabi and turnip sit side by side on a wooden table, showcasing their contrasting physical attributes. The kohlrabi is smooth and bulbous, with a pale green hue, while the turnip is round and purple with white

When you explore kohlrabi and turnip, you’ll notice distinct differences in their physical makeup, from their unique hues to their distinctive taste profiles.

Appearance and Color

Kohlrabi’s appearance is markedly different from that of a turnip. It typically has a round, bulbous stem that can come in green or purple. The stems of kohlrabi often sprout from the sides, giving it an almost alien look.

Conversely, turnips generally have a white bottom that fades into purple near the top, where the root meets the stems and leaves, offering a more traditional root vegetable appearance.

Texture and Taste

Your taste experience with these vegetables starts with their texture. Kohlrabi is known for its crispy, crunchy texture, a bit like that of a broccoli stem but more delicate.

In terms of taste, kohlrabi can have a slightly sweet, peppery flavor, whereas turnips might lean towards a more bitter taste, especially if they are mature.

Turnips, meanwhile, are usually less crisp and can be a bit woody, especially the larger ones. Their taste can vary from sweet and mild to earthy and strong, depending on age and cooking method.

Agriculture and Seasonality

In terms of agriculture and seasonality, you’ll find that kohlrabi and turnips are cool-season crops that share similar growing conditions but have distinct harvesting periods.

Growing Conditions

Kohlrabi, originally from Europe, thrives in a temperate climate. Your kohlrabi crop will do best in a well-drained, rich soil that is high in organic matter. The ideal temperature for growth is between 40 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Planting can occur in both spring for a summer harvest and late summer for a fall harvest.

Turnips, also cool-season vegetables, grow optimally in temperatures ranging from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Like kohlrabi, turnips prefer well-drained soil enriched with organic matter.

You may plant turnips slightly earlier as they can tolerate a little frost.

Harvesting Period

For kohlrabi, you can expect to harvest your crops approximately 40 to 60 days after planting, depending on whether you’ve started from transplants or seeds.

Fall is an ideal season for harvesting kohlrabi, as the cooler temperatures enhance the sweet and mild flavors of the bulbs.

In contrast, the harvesting period for turnips can be a bit quicker, with some varieties ready to pick as soon as 30 days after planting, particularly if you are harvesting the greens.

For full-sized roots, it can take about 45 to 60 days. If you plant your turnip seeds in late summer, your harvest period will align with fall, offering you crisp and tender turnip roots.

Storage and Preparation

A kitchen counter with kohlrabi and turnips, one being peeled and the other being sliced, with a cutting board and knife nearby

Understanding how to properly store and prepare kohlrabi and turnips can significantly affect their taste and shelf life. Taking the right steps ensures that you maximize freshness and flavor when it comes time to use these vegetables.

Longevity and Storage

Kohlrabi: When storing kohlrabi, remove any leaves and reserve them for later use as they are edible and flavorful. Wrap the kohlrabi bulb in a damp kitchen towel or place it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer. This method will keep kohlrabi fresh for approximately one week.

  • Storage steps:
    1. Remove leaves and set aside
    2. Wrap bulb in a moist towel or place in a plastic bag
    3. Store in the vegetable drawer of the fridge

Turnips: Turnips can also be stored in the refrigerator, preferably in the crisper drawer. If you’re storing turnips for extended periods, it’s best to keep them unwashed and with the greens removed to minimize moisture and delay spoilage.

  • Storage tips:
    • Keep unwashed with greens removed
    • Store in the crisper drawer to maintain freshness

Preparation Methods

Kohlrabi: Before you use kohlrabi, peel its tough outer layer which can be fibrous and unappealing. Once peeled, slice or dice the kohlrabi according to your recipe’s requirements.

You can eat it raw, adding a crisp, peppery flavor to salads, or cook it to bring out a milder, sweeter character.

  • Preparation steps:
    1. Peel the outer layer off the bulb
    2. Slice or dice as needed
    3. Utilize raw in salads or cooked in recipes

Turnips: To prepare turnips, you should wash them and peel the outer skin. After peeling, cut the turnip into cubes, slices, or any other shape that suits your recipe.

Like kohlrabi, turnips can be enjoyed both raw, where they add a sharp bite to dishes, or cooked, which tends to mellow their flavor.

  • Prep tips:
    • Wash and peel skin before using
    • Cut into desired shapes for raw or cooked consumption

Comparative Nutrition

When comparing kohlrabi and turnips, you’ll find distinctive nutritional profiles for each. Their differences in vitamin and mineral content can impact your dietary choices depending on your nutritional needs.

A table with kohlrabi and turnips side by side, each labeled. Nutritional information displayed in a clear, easy-to-read format. Bright, natural lighting illuminates the scene

Kohlrabi vs. Turnip Nutrients

Kohlrabi is notably rich in vitamin C, providing about 46% more of your daily needs than turnips. In terms of fiber, kohlrabi also takes the lead, with approximately 3.6g per 100g, which is double the amount you find in turnips, which contain about 1.8g.

Turnips, on the other hand, come with their own set of benefits. They are a better source of vitamin K compared to kohlrabi. However, in the specifics of macronutrients like carbs and sodium, both vegetables are low, making them a good choice if you’re monitoring your intake of these nutrients. Here’s a quick comparison table for your reference:

NutrientKohlrabi (per 100g)Turnip (per 100g)
Vitamin CHighModerate
Fiber3.6g1.8g
CarbohydratesLowLow
Vitamin KModerateHigh
SodiumLowLow

The glycemic index (GI) of both kohlrabi and turnips is considered low, making them a suitable addition to your diet if you’re being mindful of your blood sugar levels.

Other Vegetable Comparisons

While your focus might be on kohlrabi and turnips, it’s useful to consider how they stand in comparison to other vegetables.

For example, when considering zinc content, you might find that other vegetables like spinach or mushrooms are richer sources. As for fiber, vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts could provide higher amounts compared to both kohlrabi and turnips.

Every vegetable has a unique nutritional profile, and understanding these can help you make informed decisions about your diet.

Economic Factors

A scale weighing kohlrabi and turnip, with price tags and market symbols in the background

When considering the economic factors of kohlrabi and turnip, you should focus on their market prices and shopping tips that can help in making cost-effective decisions.

Market Price

Kohlrabi and turnip, while both economical, may have varying prices depending on the season and your location. Typically, kohlrabi is priced slightly higher than turnips due to its less common presence in the market and shorter growing seasons. You can expect the average prices to be:

  • Kohlrabi: $1.50 – $3.00 per pound
  • Turnip: $1.00 – $2.50 per pound

Prices also fluctuate based on organic versus non-organic choices, with organic produce generally being more costly.

Shopping Tips

To ensure you get the best value for your money, consider the following tips:

  1. Seasonality: Purchase kohlrabi and turnips during their peak seasons to enjoy lower prices and fresher produce. Turnips peak in fall and winter, while kohlrabi is best in spring and fall.
  2. Local Markets: Exploring farmers’ markets can often lead to better deals as you are buying directly from the grower, bypassing the markup of grocery stores.
  3. Bulk Purchases: If you use these vegetables regularly, buying in bulk can save money, though be mindful of their shelf life and storage conditions to prevent wastage.
  4. Sales and Discounts: Keep an eye on local store circulars for sales or discounts, especially when produce is in season.

Substitutes and Alternatives

When you’re looking to substitute kohlrabi or turnips in a recipe, it’s essential to understand the flavor and texture profiles these vegetables offer.

The substitutes provided here closely match their culinary roles, whether you’re aiming to preserve the dish’s integrity or accommodate dietary preferences.

Vegetable Substitutes

Substituting kohlrabi or turnip doesn’t have to be difficult. While each has a distinct taste and texture, various vegetables can act as satisfactory stand-ins.

For Kohlrabi:

  • Broccoli Stems: They offer a similar crispness and a slightly sweet taste, making them ideal for slaws or salads.
  • Cabbage: If your recipe will be cooked, cabbage is a great alternative due to its mild, peppery flavor.

For Turnips:

  • Potatoes: With a neutral flavor, potatoes can replace turnips in stews and soups.
  • Radishes: For a more pungent, spicy kick in raw dishes, use radishes in place of turnips.

Dietary Alternatives

In line with dietary requirements or to simply switch up the flavors:

Low-Carb Options:

  • For Kohlrabi: Opt for broccoli stems, as kohlrabi itself is low in carbohydrates.
  • For Turnips: If you’re looking for a less starchy alternative, radishes are an excellent choice.

Gluten-Free / Vegan / Vegetarian:

  • Both kohlrabi and turnips naturally fit into these diets.
  • Substitutes like cabbage, broccoli stems, and potatoes will typically align with these dietary constraints as well. Always ensure other ingredients in your substitute recipes maintain this compliance.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you’ll find direct comparisons and common inquiries regarding kohlrabi and turnips, focusing on taste, health benefits, nutritional content, calorie count, interchangeability in recipes, and the distinctive flavor profiles of each.

What are the taste differences between kohlrabi and turnips?

Kohlrabi generally has a sweeter and milder flavor compared to turnips, which can have a sharper and spicier taste, especially when raw.

Cooked turnips tend to mellow in flavor.

How do the health benefits of kohlrabi compare with those of turnips?

Both vegetables offer health benefits such as high fiber content and anti-inflammatory properties.

Kohlrabi is a rich source of Vitamin C, whereas turnips provide a higher amount of Vitamin K.

What nutritional differences exist between kohlrabi and turnips?

Kohlrabi contains more protein and dietary fiber per 100g compared to turnips. It also has a higher content of vitamin C and potassium, while turnips have more calcium.

How does the calorie count of kohlrabi compare to that of turnips?

The calorie count of kohlrabi and turnips is relatively low and comparable. However, the exact numbers may vary slightly based on the size and preparation of the vegetable.

Can kohlrabi be used as a substitute for turnips in recipes?

You can use kohlrabi as a substitute for turnips in most recipes due to their similar texture and role in dishes, but expect a slight change in taste due to their flavor differences.

What are the main flavor characteristics of kohlrabi?

Kohlrabi is often described as having a mildly sweet, nutty flavor with a crisp, juicy texture.

It lacks the bitterness that can sometimes be associated with turnips.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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