Turnips… you either love ’em, hate ’em, or never bothered to try ’em.
I never ate much turnip before, but I do love a practical vegetable where you can eat both the root and the leaves. I grow the Golden Globe turnip (Brassica rapa) variety from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, simply because I had never seen that color at the market. These turnip seeds germinated quickly and within weeks the abundant leaves had overtaken my tatsoi in the next row over… a truly low-maintenance crop that had no pests and no diseases.
Some people find the leaves too bitter and it really is an acquired taste. But I grew up on Asian staples like bitter melon, so I know bitter. And turnip greens, I can handle.
In fact, the bitterness in the greens is linked to their high calcium content. Turnip greens are one of the World’s Healthiest Foods and contain four times more calcium than a less-bitter member of the cruciferous vegetable family, like cabbage. Turnip greens come with a host of health benefits, such as cancer-fighting properties, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, yada yada yada. I mean, they’re dark, leafy and green. They’re full of vitamins and they’re good for you, just like Mama always said.
As a lover of good ol’ Southern cooking, I like my turnip greens the way I like my collards: simmering in a ham hock bath with red pepper flakes, braised in beer with crumbled bacon, or simply sauteed with olive oil, garlic, onion, and lemon juice.
The bitter flavor also mellows a bit if used in soup. Cook spicy Italian sausage, onion, garlic and potatoes in a pot of chicken broth, then add the greens until they wilt into the soup. Maybe throw in some cheese tortellini if you’re feeling fancy. Serve with crusty garlic bread and you’ve got a hearty meal.
The turnip root itself is pretty tasty, too. You can roast it with other root veggies like parsnips and carrots, or add sliced turnips to a comforting vegetable soup. They also add a flavorful kick when boiled and mashed with potatoes, or julienned raw into slaw.
And with all my turnips coming up like crazy in the garden right now, I might even discover a new turnip recipe or two!