Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Turnips for The Year of the Root Crop (And Beyond)


First, the confession: I didn’t grow them, but I’m eating them like crazy. I get turnips (and carrots and more) from our friend, Theresa Mycek, the grower/manager of Colchester CSA, who lives just down the road and grows a fabulous selection of carrots, beets, turnips, and daikon radishes (and the proverbial more).

Root veggies as a hostess gift
I’ve always loved vegetables, but I didn’t used to like turnips ONE BIT until I had some fresh from the ground – and not overcooked.  Old, and overcooked they’re bitter and icky. Fresh and well cooked, they’re really good. Theresa grows three kinds of turnips – Purple Top, Hakurei, and Gold Ball. Purple Top, with pretty purple shoulders, is what we usually see in the grocery store. Hakurei is a white globe that’s crisp, and slightly juicier and milder than the purple top, so in addition to being good cooked, it’s nice cut up raw in a salad or shredded in coleslaw like a radish. Gold Ball turnips have creamy, pale yellow flesh and are sweeter than Purple Top, especially when roasted.

Turnips (brassica rapa), which are relatively high in Vitamin C, are members of the same family as broccoli, kohlrabi (aka turnip cabbage), and rutabaga, (aka Swedish turnip or Swedes). The turnip itself is a large taproot, whose leaves are also edible. People over here on the Eastern Shore often stew the greens with bacon or ham and some onions or sauté the young leaves.

Neeps (turnips) and carrots, washed
Turnips take 40 to 65 days from seed to maturity, depending on variety. For example, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s fall-planted Amber Globe turnip is 63 days to maturity, while the spring-planted Nabo Roxo Comprido turnips reach maturity after only 40 days. Turnips are generally cool weather crops; you can sow seed practically as soon as you can get into the garden in spring. Succession plant if you want a steady crop until the heat sets in in June, then sow them again in August for fall and winter eating. You can actually grow turnips in containers too, being sure to thin them so they have sufficient space to grow. Below is a link to a list of turnip growing tips.


Turnips and carrots prepped for roasting
I didn’t learn to enjoy turnips until I began to grow them myself. We’d usually steam and mash them with caramelized onions, parmesan and a little splash of cream, like rich mashed potatoes – and they’re delicious! Some roasted garlic adds a little dash of je ne sais quoi. But there are other ways to cook them. For Christmas this year, I roasted some in the pan with the leg of lamb along with potatoes, carrots and onions. Yum yum yum. Usually, though, I dice, season and roast them and keep them in the frig to pull out when I want. They’re delicious as a side dish with chicken or goose (or duck or whatever else your resident Visigoth drags home).  More often, I pull a handful out of the container in the frig, warm them a little and add them to salad with toasted hazelnuts and blue cheese with a splash of pear or fig vinegar and olive oil.

To roast turnips:

Peel and dice turnips into whatever sized pieces you like. I usually do them about ¾ of an inch because they shrink as they roast, and I like to have the outsides toasty and the insides still soft. Others cut them small for a chewier texture.
Toss them with maple syrup or honey, salt, pepper and a bit of oil with whatever spices you like to add.  I usually do either berbere spice or smoked paprika and Adobo. Curry’s nice too. Toast at 350F for about 35 minutes or until desired doneness.
Roasted Gold Ball turnips with lettuce, stilton, and toasted walnuts





4 comments:

  1. They look delicious Nancy. Now all you have to do is substitute a leg of venison for the leg of lamb and you have a perfect HIEI (harvest it eat it) dinner.

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    1. Sorry it's taken me so long to respond, Kent, and in the end, negatively, since I don't particularly like venison. We get a fair amount over here, and while I eat a lot of wild critters (my husband hunts), venison, even venison stew, which I make occasionally using lemon pepper jelly instead of plum or currant jelly, just doesn't do it for me unless there's LOTS of red wine to wash it down with! But the lamb,ah, the lamb! We have for years bought from friends who raise sheep, so it's ALMOST am HIEI dinner.

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  2. So far, I have not been a turnip fan. That is until I tried the Hakurei turnips. I was so suprised to find a turnip that is sweet (not spicy or pungent at all). It has become a regular addition to my salads! I am so happy I found yet another vegetable to grow for my winter garden. BTW, we are still eating from my garden, daily!

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    1. Sabine, daily? Gosh. You've got it well in hand! I just canned my way through fall, and occasionally go out and clip a few straw herbs for salads and soups. My hat's off to you. I need to come down and see you garden, and chickens!

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