Turnips take their turn from tip-to-tail

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May 26, 2011 at 9:07 am

IMG_1203_2Turnips.  Oh I can just see your face, all scrunched in distaste at the mere mention of the word ‘turnip’.  Now don’t be hatin’, what did the poor turnip ever do to you?  Always getting a bad wrap…well time for the turnip to get a ‘redo’.

Admittedly the turnip hasn’t exactly been my ‘goto’ veg of choice.  Periodic appearances in soups, and, and well, not much else (assuming this stems from bad memories of severely overcooked, overcellared turnips).  But with the appearance of the beautiful baby turnips at the Farmers Markets this spring, all that is a changin’.

This humble root veggie, and member of the cabbage family, is not only tasty but is a pow-pow-powerhouse of health: the root is low in calories, high in fiber and vitamins C and the leafy green tops are packed with vitamins A, C and K, folate, calcium and lutein (a big preventer of cataracts and cardiovascular disease). Tender with a nice crunch (the older and larger versions tend toward a spongy texture) the baby turnips are sweeter and have a less pungent bite — I would liken more to a radish and mild enough to enjoy raw in salads or as part of a crudite platter. And the greens, long a favorite in southern kitchens, are similar to mustards: bite you in their raw state, but mellow when cooked.

In the Fall turnips are large and recognized by their purple topped white root.  This spring look for baby turnips that are no larger than 3” in diameter, smooth skinned and firm and in an array of colors: white, yellow, orange, pink and red.  This past week I found both white and pink baby turnips with perfectly unblemished tender green tops, a plus since I wanted to cook both the root and the greens.  I didn’t not expect a big taste difference but definitely taste the different varieties — the white was mellow and sweet the pink had a radishy bite.

I played around with an array of preparations and found the tiny spring turnips to be terrific:

-raw as a crudite (yummy paired with sliced fennel)

-Sauteed in butter alone or w/sugar snap peas, carrots and radishes

-a simple salad: paper thin slices of turnips tossed with warm rice wine vinegar, a bit of honey, pinch of salt, and a dash of red pepper.

-roasted with olive oil, butter, and some red wine vinegar

-pureed w/milk, butter and thyme.

And since the weather is still feeling more March than May, last nite I opted for comfort sides to my roasted chicken: turnips mashed with potatoes, and greens sauteed with bacon.

Smashed Turnips & Potatoes

1 lb baby turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2” pcs

1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” pcs (I used Butterballs from Nichols Farm – yum)

3 T butter

2 T sour cream or yoghurt

1 cup chicken broth or cooking water

salt/pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes and turnips in a large pot of water til tender.  Drain the veg, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water (if not opting for chicken broth).  Put the drained veg back into the cooking pot. Add the butter, sour cream, broth (or water) and start mashing to your likeness — some of us prefer a chunky mash and others a smoother mash — your cooking so it is your call. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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