What’s a Turnip?Turnips are bulbous roots which are members of the mustard family (Brassicacaieae). Both the root and the greens are edible, and you may have heard of the greens as “mustard greens”. As the name suggests, both can have a peppery, sometimes slightly bitter taste, though I find them more neutral than not. The root is super high in vitamin C, low in calories, and a good source of fiber. The greens are dark leafy beasts with mega amounts of vitamins K, A, C, folate and calcium. Sometimes you can find them sold together, though I personally have not seen that. When it comes to taste, the smaller bulbs are the more tender and delicious. Choose turnips that are tight skinned, mostly white with a purplish blush on their tops (from where there are kissed by the sun), and heavy for their size. There are many different types of turnips, though I’ve only seen the purple top white globe variety. Turnips were cultivated mostly in the Northern areas of Eastern Europe, becoming very popular in Asian cultures. In fact, the best place for me to purchase mustard greens in my city is at the Asian markets.
What do you do with a turnip?Turnips are available most of the year, though those grown in the cooler months are said to be sweeter. Look for them during the months of October through March for the best flavor. When you get them home they may be stored for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, not on the counter. The greens should be consumed within a day or two for best taste and quality. Handle them as you would spinach or kale. To prepare turnips the most popular techniques are to bake, roast, sautee, steam or mash. You may pretty much think of them as alternative potato. Turnips are also delicious sliced raw into a salad. For this I recommend the smaller size for the sweeter taste. To cook them, remove the stem end and slice off a thin layer of the tougher skin if it needs it. I did not when I roasted mine, which were the size of a small orange, and I found these to be tender enough to leave as is.
Convincing You to Eat ThemSo let’s be honest here, no one really gets excited about eating turnips. In my mind they are often thought of as peasant food, so only those either living a grim life or have grossly misbehaved would be remanded to eating turnips. But please, allow me to inspire you just a little bit. First off, to me, they don’t have a particularly strong taste. I put them in the earthy category, rather than pungent. Roasting definitely brings out the sweetness, so for the first time I recommend this approach. They are less starchy than a potato so way to lighten your calorie load is to boil some up with your potatoes when making mash. You won’t fool anyone, you can taste the earthiness, but I absolutely adore mashed this way. Along side that neutral chicken or fish they will brighten up your plate. I have two outstanding and delicious recipes for you here. The first is Roasted with Cayenne and Grated Parmesan, which is pictured above. When I made them the wife came into the kitchen and circled around the bowl for a bit. Now mind you she is a bit of a picky eater, but when prompted to taste one she loved it. She then proceeded to immediately gobble up most of what was left. The second version is White Balsamic Glaze Sauteed Baby Turnips. The vinegar has a mild sweetness to it along with a touch of honey makes these babies a real treat. If you adore roasted Brussels sprouts you are going to find a new love with these. I hope that if you haven’t already adopted turnips into your diet that you give them a try. Let me know what you think!
Roasted Turnips with Cayenne and Grated Parmesan
White Balsamic Glaze Sauteed Baby Turnips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ lb baby turnips (or the smallest you can find quartered)
¼ cup water
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground white pepper
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat and swirl to coat . Add the turnips and stir to coat. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
Remove the cover and add the vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens to a glaze, 3-5 mins. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.