By Cynthia Hill, NTP
Behold the turnip! It’s time to elevate the lowly turnip to royal status! From my own personal experience growing turnips here in the Midwest, they are super easy to grow, thrive in less than ideal soil and weather conditions and don’t appear to suffer from pests and disease. Turnips prefer cooler temps, full sun and well-drained soil. The Old Farmers Almanac states “Turnips like a dry bed but a wet head”. I love that turnips mature in just 55 days, being one of the first vegetables to enjoy from the early garden. Turnips are a good storage vegetable as well.
Turnips are a member of the brassicaceae family and are nutritional powerhouses. You can eat both the root and the green tops. According to Dr. Mercola, low calorie turnip roots are loaded with vitamins A, C, K, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. The turnip tops or greens are even more nutritious than the roots! The greens are even richer in Vitamins K,C,A, B6, Folate and minerals including copper, manganese and calcium. Turnip greens also contain cancer fighting glucosinolates (sulfur-containing compounds), fiber and antioxidants.
Harvest turnip greens by cutting just a few of the stems at a time (tender, young greens will be less bitter). Enjoy the greens in salads or lightly steamed or sautéed. Turnips have a pungent flavor that pairs well with milder vegetables. You can roast them by themselves, but I prefer to roast turnip root with other vegetables including carrots, beets, potatoes, etc… and some aromatics like garlic and onion. Simply cube the veggies, place on a baking sheet and toss with a good healthy fat such as coconut oil, duck fat or avocado oil, drizzle with a little honey or maple syrup and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour or until veggies have softened and caramelized, stirring occasionally. A turnip mash or smash is easy too – boil or steam turnips until soft, drain, add butter or ghee, season, mash and enjoy. Furthermore, add some garlic and bacon for additional flavor. Mash turnips with potatoes and add some sour cream for a real treat! Try with sweet potatoes too.
If you don’t have an inkling to grow your own, look for turnips and turnip greens at farmers markets in the Spring and Fall or at your local supermarket. Look for firm roots and fresh unwilted bright green tops. Store in the crisper of the refrigerator and consume the greens as soon as possible. Scrub turnip roots when ready to cook. Peel when roasting or if turnips are large (more mature) in size.
Henry VIII liked his turnips roasted and the tender young leaves served in a salad. Goethe stated that ‘they are best mixed with chestnuts.’
There is 1 person in the U.S. listed on whitepages.com with the last name ‘Turnip’
California is the largest grower of turnips in the United States.
Not to be forgotten is the well known saying “just fell off a turnip truck” meaning a “simpleton”, or naïve, uninformed or gullible. Surprisingly, I could not find a consistent origin of this phrase and am left to ponder the connection of gullible and turnips…
So, considering the many attributes of the turnip – it is nutrient dense, you can consume every part of it, it is easy to grow, it tastes good, and plays well with others, it appears that the lowly turnip isn’t so lowly after all and deserves to be elevated to vegetable royalty!