Next time you’re looking for a healthy and versatile vegetable side-dish, look no further than garden turnips. That’s right: turnips and turnip greens are exceptionally delicious, high in vitamin C and so much more, making this vegetable the perfect dietary choice for a healthy lifestyle.
Want to learn more about this picture-perfect, root vegetable? Read on. It just might surprise you that there’s more to the humble turnip than meets the eye.
How Turnips and Turnip Greens Found a Place at the Table
Turnips have had a long and storied past and they were a real crowd pleaser in Europe since prehistoric times. This vegetable variety was particularly important to peasant farmers as it was relatively inexpensive to grow and harvest. Every part of the plant could be put to good use. How so? Turnip roots were harvested for the family dinner while the leaves were cut as feed for animals.
Sure, turnips have experienced their fair share of disappointments over the years. Scorned by nobility for many years, turnips and turnip greens unfairly characterized as simple, peasant food. Fortunately, times have changed and baby turnips, in particular, are finding their rightful place on the menu of some of the finest restaurant establishments. The movement towards locally sourced produce and farm-to-table products has also put the turnip back on the culinary map to the delight of many.
Because turnips are best grown in cold climates, today they are particularly popular in the US, Europe, Nordic countries, Great Britain and Canada. Advancements in the cultivation and harvesting of this garden vegetable have made them increasingly attractive to chefs in the southern hemisphere.
Growing and Harvesting Turnips and Turnip Greens
Turnips grow best in cooler climates. Turnips are typically planted at the end of June and take about 3-4 months to grow. In the south, where the weather’s a bit warmer, turnips can be resown in late summer or early fall for a second growing season. Turnips are biennial, meaning it can take up to two years before these plants flower, produce seeds, and die. In the first year, the root draws and stores nutrients to grow. In colder climates, the turnip plants may be pulled over the winter months and replanted later to protect the roots from freezing cold weather.
Vitamin-Packed Turnips and Turnip Greens
Turnips and turnip greens are not just for show. And, they’re not just super delicious. The root of the vegetable is jam-packed with vitamin C. The leaves contain much-needed vitamins A, C and K, calcium and folate. These vitamins and minerals are essential in promoting good eye sight, strong bones, and overall health and wellbeing.
How to Prepare Turnips and Turnip Greens
Turnips are prized for their white, bulbous taproot which, once cleaned and trimmed of its leafy greens, can be boiled or cooked and used in a variety of ways. Baby turnips, when prepared just right, are real crowd pleasers on any family table. What do I like best about turnips and turnip greens? They’re easy to find in your grocery store and even easier to prepare. Turnips are a great addition to cooked carrots and potatoes. They also pair nicely with beets and other root vegetables.
Ready to put turnips and turnip greens onto your menu? Not sure where to start? Here are two of my favorite recipes for this handy, dandy garden vegetable. I encourage you to try others. After all, the turnip is an excellent choice for today’s modern kitchen and household.
30-45 minutes (prep/cooking time)
4 to 6 turnips
¼ cup low fat or 1% milk
¼ cup butter
4-5 pads of butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley or garden herbs, paprika or cayenne pepper
1. Clean and trim turnips
2. Boil for 20 minutes (or until soft when pierced with fork/knife)
3. Drain turnips and return to pan on low heat
4. Add ¼ cup of low fat or 1% milk
5. Add ¼ cup of butter
6. Whip for 1-2 minutes (or until soft peaks appear, careful not to over-process)
7. Salt and pepper to taste
8. Serve piping hot, dotted with extra butter
Top with fresh herbs like parsley, chives, sage, etc. Add a dash of paprika or cayenne pepper.
Oven Roasted Turnips and Beets with Tangy Balsamic Glaze
1.5 hours (prep/cooking time)
4 red beets, cut into quarters or chunks
2 turnips, cut into quarters or chunks
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh or dried rosemary
1 Tsp grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley or garden herbs
1. Toss beets, turnips, onion & garlic with olive oil, balsamic, fresh or dried rosemary, lemon zest, salt and freshly ground pepper.
2. Place turnip and beet mixture on lightly oiled platter.
3. Roast at 400 degrees for 1 hour or more, until crisp.
4. Serve piping hot
Top with chopped fresh parsley or garden herbs for extra flavor.
Alternative Field Crops Manual
University of Wisconsin-Extension
Turnips and Its Hybrid Offspring
Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System.
Turnips: Versatile and Nutritious in Any Season
By Martha Rose Shulman, Recipes for Health in New York Times Online (January 2, 2012)