Kohlrabi, in case you aren’t familiar with it, is a greenish-white (or sometimes purplish-white) vegetable in the cabbage family. It looks a little like a turnip, but it’s round, and has hard stems coming out of one end. Which brings us to her memory: a kohlrab-a-pop.
“I remember my father pulling the root out of the soft black dirt and, with his ever-present pocket knife, scraping the root clean,” she writes in her blog, “The Farm Girl Cooks.” “Then he’d clip off the leaves and peel the thick woody skin off all of the bulb except the bottom. He’d hand it to us with his dirty calloused hands and we’d happily hold our ‘pops’ by the root and nibble away at the crisp, juicy, white interior.”
So it’s a natural that, for our occasional series highlighting farmers and their recipes, she chose one with kohlrabi: Kohlrabi and Apple Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette. (See below.)
Bialas Farm grows kohlrabi and more than 80 other varieties of vegetables on 55 acres in New Hampton in Orange County — black dirt country. Kasha’s grandfather purchased the land — on Celery Avenue (really!) — in 1939.
“He started as a sharecropper, and decided that he didn’t want to work his butt off to give the money to someone else,” she says. The family had six children, and everyone worked the farm. “My aunt and uncle would tell stories about getting off the school bus, having a quick snack and going out to relieve my grandmother in the fields so she could go and cook dinner.”
From 1939 to 1970, the family grew celery until its harvest, then a quick crop of spinach before the winter set in. (And Celery Avenue got its name because of an old wooden sign painted with celery pointing the way for truckers to come pick up the produce for market.)
Between 1970 and 1991 — “after the celery market went to hell,” says Bialas — they grew onions. In 1991, they started doing farmers markets and diversified.
Bialas Farm — which is owned by Kasha and her parents; her brother left the family business to start his own: J.A. Bialas Farm — now has three greenhouses, which allows them to have a winter CSA (or Community Supported Agriculture). They also sell their produce at markets in Goshen, N.Y., on Fridays and Ringwood, N.J., on Saturdays.
But in Pleasantville, you’ll find Kasha Bialas, who can tell you anything you want to know about any vegetable she’s selling: where it was planted, when it was harvested, how it was harvested, how to store it — and, of course, what to do with it in your own kitchen.
“I was helping a lovely woman in Pleasantville,” she writes on her blog. “After weighing them, I put the two kohlrabi bulbs she was purchasing into her canvas bag. ‘I bet these would make a great salad with some crisp, fresh apple,’ I said. It was like a light bulb went off and illuminated us both… a farmers market think tank, if you will. ‘What a great idea!’ said the woman. ‘I just bought some apples!” [Yes, I’m aware… considering I’ve recently been rooting around in your bag.]
“I added the suggestion of apple cider vinegar for the dressing and she countered with extra virgin olive oil. As she was walking away I flashed a winning smile and popped out with, ‘nah. Roasted walnut oil would be great.’
“She turned and grinned and thanked me for the inspiration, vowing to give me a full report next week. I couldn’t wait for her, so I whipped something up myself — after a much-deserved but painfully brief Sunday afternoon nap on the sofa.”
After the jump, Kasha’s kohlrabi recipe.
(Portrait by Alan Shapiro; Kohlrabi Salad by Kasha Bialas)
Kohlrabi and Apple Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette
1 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons roasted walnut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium apple, unpeeled, cut into matchsticks
1 kohlrabi, medium to large, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted in dry skillet
1 tablespoon minced chives (with the blossoms if you have some)
1/2 teaspoons minced lemon thyme
Whisk together cider vinegar, walnut oil and honey, then season with salt and pepper.
Stir in apple matchsticks as you cut them and the acid will keep the apple from oxidizing and turning brown. Stir in remaining ingredients, taste for seasoning and serve.
If you prefer it crisp, eat it right away. If you’re like my dad and mom and prefer things not quite so crunchy, the salad is fine left overnight in the fridge.
At the markets:
Irvington: 3:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through October, in the back lot of the Main Street School (101 Main St.). 914-478-8068. irvingtonfarmersmarket.net
Pleasantville: 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 17. Memorial Plaza off Manville Road (near 42 Memorial Plaza). 914-923-4837. communitymarkets.biz or www.facebook.com/PvilleFarmMarket.
Previously featured: Gaia’s Breath Farm and Fried Zucchini Blossoms.