Turnips are a rather quiet winter vegetable, and as such tend to be overlooked, but don’t cheat yourself by passing them by. Sweet, juicy, and crisp, with a wonderful mild mustardy undertone, turnips can be braised in stews or simmered in soups, slivered into salads or simply sliced, buttered, salted and nibbled raw as a snack.
Turnips are a quintessential cellar vegetable; they are a frost-hardy crop, and are said to sweeten when the weather cools. Turnips are dug in the late autumn and stored throughout the cold season. Turnips pair well with other root vegetables such as beets, parsnips, and carrots. They also pair with rich meats such as pork, beef, and sausage. Other complimentary ingredients include butter, cream, cheese, chives, chestnuts, garlic, citrus, mushrooms, parsley, potatoes, tarragon, thyme, and vinegar.
Buying: Look for brightly colored turnips with creamy looking bulbs and a violet-hued ring around the tops. You want to choose firm turnips without blemishes that feel heavy for their size. At the market, you’ll find the familiar purple top turnip, a variety that is best when cooked. You will also find Tokyo turnips, which can be eaten raw or cooked.
Storing: If you buy turnips with their greens attached, remove the greens when you get them home. Clean, store, and cook the greens as any cooking green. Store turnips loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper of the fridge. A less orthodox storing method has been advocated by Alton Brown. Because turnips are roots, he reasons, they will be most at home in a dirt-like environment. Therefore, he suggests filling one of your crisper drawers with . . . sand. You then bury your vegetables in the sand. He swears he’s kept root vegetables crisp and fresh in this manner for months. Theoretically this makes sense because you are basically creating a mini root cellar. We have not yet tried this method, but if you do, please let us know how it goes!
Cooking: Contrary to conventional wisdom, turnips can be eaten raw. Baby turnips can be cut into wedges and served as crudites with dip or sliced and added to salads for a crisp, lightly zippy tang. Turnips can be utilized for fresh eating when young, though they are truly transformed, their flesh softened and their flavors rich and sweet, when cooked. The “hot” flavor associated with turnips makes them particularly well suited to mixing and matching with other root vegetables. Add a turnip or two to your favorite mashed potato recipe, for example, or to a pan of roast vegetables. Best cooking methods are braising, simmering, slow roasting and sautéeing. Turnips can also be made into smooth purées and soups. They are just as delicious and easy to prepare as potatoes and carrots, and provide a decent dose of vitamin C, fiber, and folic acid while being low in calories. Smaller-sized turnips can be halved to be cooked, while larger sized turnips should be be peeled to remove any fibrous outer layer.
Finding: Brookford Farm, Burnt Swamp Farm, Heron Pond Farm, Hollister Family Farm, Meadow’s Mirth Farm, Red Manse Farm, Riverside Farm, White Gate Farm, and Wild Miller Gardens will all be bringing our featured vegetable, turnips, to our February 23rd Winter Farmers’ Market in Rollinsford!