Standing at the Harvey County Farmers Market, my mouth began to water. There, in front of me, was a real treat. Kohlrabi.
I do not get that veggie very often. Part of the cabbage family, it is rarely seen in grocery stores. I have gown it in my garden with varied levels of success.
There, on a Saturday morning, was a delicacy from my childhood. While kohlrabi can be cooked, my childhood memories are from my mother slicing it raw and sprinkling a little salt on it. As I stood there, looking at the small kohlrabi in the basket, I was transported back to those summer evenings in Iowa and the large garden my mother had in those years.
Fresh kohlrabi. Strawberries. Rhubarb. Corn. Broccoli. Radishes. She raised different things. I was also transported into the backyard of both of my grandmothers, who each had smaller gardens filled with some wonderful things.
I don't remember just what came out of my mouth as I stood there, nearly dumbstruck as I spied such a prize. I think it might have just been the exultation of:
“Kohlrabi! Oh, my!”
An acquaintance from my church looked at me, and he asked what it was. I tried to describe it. I told him of slicing it up and eating it raw, with just a sprinkle of salt. He chose to buy a little just to try it — adding it to his order of the day and having his grand daughter count his money to pay the final bill.
My daughter said something as well — something both very unpredictable, but also quite predictable as of late.
“I want to try it!”
She has started to get more adventuresome in her eating, especially in the area of fruits and vegetables. This summer she has been open to trying broccoli (both raw and cooked), carrots (cooked with a little garlic, butter and ginger), kohlrabi and turnips to name a few.
She hasn't liked everything she has tried. But she did like the fresh mustard greens, broccoli and cooked carrots. She has loved the dried figs, blueberries and blackberries. She will snarf down a pint of strawberries in the amount of time it takes for me to turn my head.
Most of this is new. All of this is very welcome. I'm hoping some of this will start to rub off on her brothers. In the case of her older brother, he has become a sweet corn-on-the-cob vacuum. He'll put away three ears before anyone has touched their plate at the dinner table.
We all know we need to eat more fruits and veggies, which is one reason this summer has become a little bit exciting at the dinner table for myself and my wife. At least one of our children has started expanding her horizons in that department. Honestly, the first time we sat in a restaurant and she ordered a salad, my jaw about dropped to the floor. For longer than I want to admit, chicken nuggets were her staple.
As a gardner, this is very rewarding as well. While my garden struggles mightily this summer (I am really looking forward to the fall season, and will be getting kind of adventurous with fall plantings this year) there is something much more frustrating than watching my cucumbers not produce much and my okra fighting every day to come alive.
It is to grow these things, and for no one but me to eat them.
I am now taking notes at our dinner table. When my daughter exclaims “I love broccoli!” and my son asks “can we get blue corn?” I make mental notes, sometimes jotting them down on paper. These things will be planted at the next opportunity. In some cases, like with broccoli and chards, that opportunity is coming up in a few weeks. In others, that next opportunity will be next spring.
I look forward to getting some of those things in the ground and growing. I also plan on adding a some other things, similar to kohlrabi, that we can explore a bit. I pray that someday my sons and daughters will either plant their own gardens and think back to some Kansas summers, or get dumbstruck at a farmers market and think about the time their father grew some strange beans that tasted really, really good.
— Chad Frey is Managing Editor of The Newton Kansan. He lives in Newton with his wife and three children.