The Humble Turnip

The turnip is an often overlooked vegetable with a low reputation. Writers wax poetic about tomatoes or apples- even the potato, but the turnip, not so much.  Some people are familiar with a common preparation of the vibrant leafy turnip greens simmered with bacon, which is delicious, by the way.  But, it is just hard to get most people excited about turnips. Even though turnips are abundant this time of year, they aren’t included as a holiday staple on most Thanksgiving tables.  I once tried to include turnips in my family’s Thanksgiving meal, and I was greeted with opposition and hostility.  Eek!  But, that doesn’t stop me from experimenting with different turnip preparations.  Below, you will find some turnip facts and a few recipes to encourage you to experiment with including this humble vegetable into your family meals.

Let’s take a look at the many virtues of the turnip.  It is inexpensive and adaptable to many climates and types of soil, which makes it a cold-weather staple crop in many parts of the world.  If you’ve never tried a turnip, it has a sweet, tender but crisp flesh and a mild bite, similar to mustard oil.  Turnips can be eaten raw or cooked, much the same as a radish.  Grated raw turnips serve as a digestive aid.  Cooking sweetens the turnips and mellows their bite.  They strengthen the blood and are good for general detoxification.  I like eating raw, fresh, young turnips, sliced very thin with a sprinkle of good salt.  Beautiful colored sea salts provide a nice visual contrast to the white flesh of the turnip.

A visit to the Edible Schoolyard right now means you will see lots of cabbages, dark leafy greens, lettuces, herbs, gourds- and yes, turnips!  Our turnip patch is a bed of bright green tops and cute little purple collars poking out from the brown earth.  It’s wonderful!  Just this past weekend, parents and children participated in a turnip harvest in the garden and turnip tasting in the kitchen.  It was great fun.  And, kids and adults even at the turnips!  I prepared them by cutting the turnips (about 5-6 small turnips) into small cubes, tossing them with a few tablespoons of melted butter, a pinch of salt, and a big glug (about 2 tablespoons) of maple syrup.  Then, I baked them in a foil-covered dish at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until barely tender.  After that, I removed the foil and baked for another 5 minutes until they were beginning to caramelize around the edges.

Here are a few other links to my favorite turnip recipes found on the web:

David Lebovitz- pickled turnips:  http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2012/09/pickled-turnips-turnip-recipe/

Pioneer woman- turnip gratin:  http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/11/turnip-gratin/

Daniel Holzman- smashed turnips with horseradish:  http://nymag.com/restaurants/recipes/inseason/turnips-inseason-2011-3/

I hope you feel inspired to give turnips a try.  Maybe you’ll consider adding them to your Thanksgiving (or any other) meal this holiday season.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Travel safe, enjoy your family, share a wonderful meal- and remember to give thanks to the farmers that grow our food!

-Jennifer

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