Kohlrabi vs Turnip

When exploring the vegetable aisle, you may come across kohlrabi and turnip, two nutrient-packed root vegetables that offer a range of health benefits and culinary uses. Kohlrabi, with its round bulb and spiky stems, belongs to the cabbage family and is often found in European and Asian cuisines. It’s not only rich in vitamin C but also provides a generous amount of fiber to your diet.

Turnip, on the other hand, is known for its white bulb with a purple top and has been a staple in various cultures for its versatility in cooking. It is a good source of vitamin K and contains calcium and potassium. While both kohlrabi and turnip can contribute positively to your health by offering anti-inflammatory properties and potential anticancer benefits, they each bring distinct flavors and textures to your meals.

Whether you’re looking to enhance your dishes or find a new favorite vegetable, understanding the unique characteristics of kohlrabi and turnip can guide you in making informed choices for your recipes and your health.

Botanical Background

When you explore the botanical lineage of kohlrabi and turnip, you’re uncovering the rich tapestry of the Brassica family. Kohlrabi, also known as the German turnip, belongs to the Brassica oleracea Gongylodes Group. This vegetable develops a bulbous stem that you can eat, rendering its appearance distinct from the typical below-ground root vegetables.

In contrast, turnip belongs to the Brassica rapa species. Embracing the cooler temperatures of Europe’s fall and spring, it thrives as a stout root, and, much like kohlrabi, is a biennial plant.

Here’s how they differ and where common relations lie:

  • Kohlrabi
    • Species: Brassica oleracea
    • Edible Parts: Bulbous stem and leaves
    • Flavor: Mild, sweet, similar to cabbage
    • Growing Season: Prefers cooler temperatures, typically spring or fall
  • Turnip
    • Species: Brassica rapa
    • Edible Parts: Root and greens
    • Flavor: More pungent, akin to radishes
    • Growing Season: Fares well in fall and spring seasons

Both vegetables share a common ancestry with crops like cabbage and radish, all of which relish in cold weather for optimal growth. Neither kohlrabi nor turnip is closely related to potatoes, as potatoes belong to an entirely different family known as the nightshades.

Your understanding of these two distinct yet similar vegetables can deepen as you acknowledge their shared history and unique botanical characteristics. Both offer a nutritious addition to your meals, inviting a blend of flavors and textures to your palette.

Nutritional Content Comparison

In this section, you’ll discover the specific nutritional differences between kohlrabi and turnip, including their macronutrient profiles, vitamin and mineral content, and other dietary benefits, which is essential for informed dietary choices.

Macronutrients and Calories

Kohlrabi has a higher protein content, with approximately 1.7g per 100g, compared to turnip’s 0.9g. For dietary fiber, kohlrabi again leads with about 3.6g per 100g, while turnip contains roughly 1.8g. In terms of caloric value, both vegetables are low, but specific numbers vary based on preparation and size.

NutrientKohlrabi (per 100g)Turnip (per 100g)
CaloriesLowLow
Protein1.7g0.9g
Dietary Fiber3.6g1.8g
Total Carbs
Sugars2.6g3.8g

Vitamins and Minerals

Kohlrabi is richer in vitamin C, covering 46% more of your daily needs than turnip. It also has significantly more vitamin A and vitamin E. Conversely, turnips contain more vitamin K and are a better source of calcium and potassium.

Vitamin/MineralKohlrabi (per 100g)Turnip (per 100g)
Vitamin CSignificantly higherLower
Vitamin A36IU0IU
Vitamin E0.48mg0.03mg
Vitamin KHigher
CalciumHigher
Potassium350mg191mg

Dietary Benefits

Both vegetables are great fiber sources, which can aid in digestion and have anti-inflammatory properties. They’re also associated with potential anticancer properties. Neither contain cholesterol, making them heart-healthy choices.

  • Dietary Fiber: aids in digestion, can help manage blood sugar levels.

Glycemic Index Value

Glycemic index values for kohlrabi and turnip are not provided but considering their low sugar content and high fiber, both are likely to have a low glycemic index, which is beneficial for blood sugar control.

Amino Acids Profile

Kohlrabi and turnip provide a range of amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are important for protein synthesis and body repair. However, the specifics of their amino acids profile are not detailed here. They do not contain all essential amino acids, so it’s important to combine them with other protein sources for a complete profile.

Appearance and Taste Profiles

In exploring kohlrabi and turnips, you’ll notice distinct differences in their appearance and how they tantalize your palate. Let’s examine the visual distinctions and delve into the nuances of texture and flavor.

Visual Differences

Kohlrabi: Often referred to as the “German turnip,” kohlrabi is not a true turnip. It has a round, slightly bulbous shape, similar to a stem vegetable. You may find kohlrabi with purple or white skin, although the flesh inside is typically a creamy, pale yellow.

  • Purple Kohlrabi: Exhibits a deep purple exterior that adds a pop of color to dishes.
  • White Kohlrabi: Has a pale, greenish-white skin that is more understated.

Turnip: Traditional turnips are white at the bottom with a purple-hued top, the part that peeks above ground and gets kissed by the sun as they grow.

  • Purple Top Turnip: The most common variety, showing a contrast between the purple top and the rest of its white body.

Texture and Flavor

Kohlrabi: It boasts a crunchy texture, which is reminiscent of broccoli stems. The taste is softly peppery, a bit sweet, and altogether mild, suitable for both raw and cooked applications.

  • Flavor: A subtle mixture of sweet and mildly spicy notes, akin to radishes.
  • Texture: Firm and crunchy, similar to an apple.

Turnip: Turnips are generally less dense than kohlrabi and offer a somewhat peppery flavor that can become milder when cooked.

  • Flavor: A crisp, slightly nutty profile with more peppery undertones.
  • Texture: The tender quality when cooked, yet maintains a pleasant bite when raw.

Culinary Uses

In exploring the culinary uses of kohlrabi and turnip, you’ll find these versatile vegetables can be prepared and incorporated into an array of dishes. Each has a distinct taste and texture profile that lends itself to various cooking techniques and recipe pairings.

Preparation Methods

When working with kohlrabi, your preparation starts with removing the tough outer peel, best done with a paring knife. You can then slice or dice the flesh, depending on your recipe needs. Turnips, on the other hand, may be used with or without peeling, though the younger ones have a tender skin that’s easier to consume raw. Both vegetables can be grated for a fresh slaw or salad, or cut into sticks or chunks for cooking.

VegetableRaw PreparationCooked Preparation
KohlrabiPeel and sliceDice or chop
TurnipPeel if necessaryCube or wedge

Recipes and Pairings

Kohlrabi’s mild sweetness pairs well with apples in a fresh salad or slaw, whereas turnip’s earthy flavor complements root vegetables like carrots and potatoes in a hearty stew. You can enjoy both kohlrabi and turnip raw, serving them with a dip or shredded in a salad for a crunchy texture. Cooked, they can be mashed for a smooth side dish or roasted to bring out their natural sugars.

  • Salads/Slaws: Combine with cabbage or radishes for a crunchy vegetable medley.
  • Stews/Soups: Enhance soups with cubed turnips or kohlrabi for added nutrition and flavor.
  • Roasted: Toss with olive oil, salt, and your favorite spices before roasting to create a caramelized surface.

Cooking Techniques

Both kohlrabi and turnip can be cooked using a variety of techniques:

  • Roast them to concentrate their flavors.
  • Sauté with onions and garlic as a flavorful base for dishes.
  • Stir-fries benefit from their crunchy texture and ability to absorb sauces.
  • Boil and mash them for a twist on traditional mashed potatoes.
  • Steam as a healthful way to soften the vegetables without adding fat.

Substitution Suggestions

In recipes calling for broccoli stems or cabbage, kohlrabi can be a perfect substitute due to its similar texture and flavor profile. You can also interchange kohlrabi and turnip in various dishes but be mindful of the flavor differences; kohlrabi is sweeter while turnip has a stronger, more radish-like bite.

  • Raw in Salads/Slaws: Substitute kohlrabi or turnip for broccoli stems.
  • Cooked Dishes: Use kohlrabi as a stand-in for cabbage or vice versa.
  • Roasted or Mashed: Both can replace potatoes for a lower-carb option.

Growing and Harvesting

When you decide to grow kohlrabi or turnip, you must consider the unique cultivation needs of these vegetables and the timing of planting and harvesting to ensure a successful yield.

Agricultural Practices

Kohlrabi
For optimal growth:

  • Plant kohlrabi in well-drained, fertile soil rich in organic matter.
  • Space your plants about 6 inches apart in rows that are set 12 to 18 inches apart.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist by watering regularly.
  • Avoid overcrowding to promote strong, healthy stems and prevent disease.

For leaves and stems:

  • Harvest leaves while they are young and tender, particularly if you plan to consume them. The stems or bulbs are best when they reach 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

Turnips
For optimal growth:

  • Choose a location with full sun, though they can tolerate partial shade.
  • Sow seeds directly into the ground and cover lightly with soil.
  • Thin seedlings to 4 to 6 inches apart to give roots room to grow.

For leaves and stems:

  • Both the leafy greens and the root bulbs of turnips are edible.
  • Pull the greens when they are young and the bulbs when they are about 2 to 3 inches in diameter for the best flavor.

Seasonality and Storage

Kohlrabi
Planting Seasons:

  • Plant in the cool temperatures of early spring or late summer/early fall.
  • Kohlrabi does not thrive in high heat and should reach maturity before temperatures exceed 75℉.
  • In northern climates, spring and fall planting is recommended.

Storage:

  • After harvesting, cut off the leaves, and store the bulbs in the refrigerator. They can last for several weeks if kept in a humid and cool environment, like a crisper drawer.

Turnips
Planting Seasons:

  • Direct sow as early as 4 weeks before the last average frost date in spring.
  • Continue succession planting every 2 to 3 weeks throughout the growing season.
  • In hot climates, pause planting in early summer and start again for the fall harvest about 8 to 10 weeks before the first frost.

Storage:

  • Leaves should be consumed soon after harvesting.
  • The bulbs can be stored in a cool, dark place like a root cellar or in the refrigerator for prolonged freshness. They can keep for several months under the right conditions, extending their availability beyond the harvest time.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you’ll find concise answers to common questions about kohlrabi and turnip, covering taste, nutrition, substitutes, cooking, and texture.

How do the flavors of kohlrabi and turnip differ?

Kohlrabi has a mild, sweet flavor that might remind you of apple or broccoli stems, while turnips are generally more peppery and sometimes slightly bitter.

What are some suitable substitutes for kohlrabi in recipes?

You can use broccoli stems, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts as substitutes for kohlrabi due to their similar texture and flavor profiles.

In what ways are the nutritional profiles of kohlrabi and turnip distinct?

Kohlrabi is higher in vitamin C and dietary fiber, aiding in immune support and digestion, whereas turnips offer more vitamin K, important for bone health and blood clotting.

What are the best cooking methods to bring out the flavor of kohlrabi and turnip?

Roasting or sautéing kohlrabi can accentuate its sweetness, while turnips can be mashed or roasted to mellow their spiciness and enhance their natural flavors.

How do kohlrabi and turnip compare in terms of culinary uses?

Kohlrabi can be eaten raw in salads or slaws for a crunchy element, and turnips are often used in stews and soups to add depth of flavor.

Are there any notable texture differences between kohlrabi and turnip when cooked?

Cooked kohlrabi tends to retain a firmer, crispier texture, while turnips become tender and may break down more, especially when boiled or steamed.

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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.
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