About Turnips

November 26, 2006

About Turnips

The turnip is a member of the cabbage family and is a cool season crop. The turnip is a dual purpose crop. The leaves are used for greens and the root is cooked similar to potatoes and beets. The turnip has round or top-shaped roots, white skin with purplish or greenish crowns, and thin, green, hairy leaves. Since it flourishes in poor and impoverished soils and keeps well, this rustic vegetable has endeared itself to the poor and given some cause to scorn it. The turnip is often confused with its cousin the rutabaga, but the turnip is smaller and more perishable. It can also be eaten raw and is most frequently harvested with its tops. Turnips and rutabagas do taste somewhat similar however, and in many recipes are interchangeable. Raw turnips are refreshing and tangy, similar to mild radish, and when cooked become pleasantly sweet, although turnips grown during the hot summer months are decidedly pungent but mellow somewhat with cooking.

Store turnips unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Store turnip greens separately, wrapped in a damp towel or in a plastic bag in the hydrator drawer of the refrigerator. Use greens as soon as possible. For longer term storage, turnips may be packed in moist sand and kept in a cool but not freezing location. Turnips may also be frozen in chunks for use in stews and soups. Blanch the chunks for two to three minutes, rinse under cold water and drain thoroughly before packing into airtight freezer containers.

Scrub turnips with a stiff vegetable brush. There is no need to peel them, simply trim away damaged areas. When fresh and young, turnips are wonderful used raw in salads. When cooked with other foods, turnips absorb flavors, making them succulent and rich. Use turnip greens as a cooking green; they are generally too bitter and tough to use in raw salads.

Try raw turnips cut into sticks for a vegetable platter with dip.
Grate into salads or slaws.
Boil whole turnips 15 to 20 minutes; 1 1/2-inch cubes or slices, 8 to 10 minutes.
Steamed turnips takes 5 minutes longer to cook than boiled.
Bake turnips for 30 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees F., basted with butter or oil, or bake along with other seasonal roots.

Source: “Whole Foods Companion,” Dianne Onstad, 2004.

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