What To Do With Turnips?
In North America, the turnip isn’t as well known as it is in other parts of the world.
I think it’s time for that to change.
The humble and highly affordable turnip is a wonderfully tasty and nutritious cruciferous vegetable that’s begging to be better understood and utilized to add variety and great taste to our meals.
What Are Turnips And How Do I Use Them?
The turnip is classed as a root vegetable. It belongs to the Brassica family. Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli are the other prominent members. Turnips tend to be round in appearance. Often the tops turn a purple hue where it’s exposed to sunlight as it grows and matures. The turnip is known for crisp white flesh that has a taste somewhere between a cabbage and a radish.
In the southern United States, braised turnip greens are often served in a similar style to mustard greens with a flavor that’s also familiar.
A Turnip By Another Name
In some parts of Britain as well as parts of Canada, a turnip is also used for a rutabaga which is a similar member of the Brassica Family but has a mild-tasting yellow flesh.
When Are Turnips in Season?
Although turnips are available in stores most of the year, the harvest season for turnips is generally late fall or early winter depending on the location and variety. Turnips prefer mild temperatures and will grow reliably in many environments all over the world.
What Do Turnips Taste Like – Raw vs Cooked?
I fully admit I love turnips. Both raw and cooked in a variety of ways. The thing is, the turnip, just like several other veggies, changes its flavor profile slightly when cooked in certain ways. Turnips are mild but flavorful when raw but depending on the cooking method, the taste changes to sweeter and/or nuttier.
A turnip’s texture goes from firm and crisp (perfect for eating raw with a sprinkling of good sea salt) to smooth and velvety after cooking. This cruciferous vegetable lends itself to all kinds of raw and cooked techniques. We’ll get to that next.
7 Creative Ways to Cook With Turnips
A general rule of thumb is to use turnips the same as other root vegetables such as beets, sweet potatoes or even (depending on the recipe) carrots. When buying turnips, go for ones that look and feel firm and heavy. Most times, at least in Canada, the leaves are removed but if you do find leafy turnips, go for ones that are leaf’s that are bright and healthy looking.
- Turnips lend themselves to dishes that require cutting vegetables to a common size for frying or braising. They compliment others such as carrots, celery, leeks and onions.
- Another personal favorite turnip preparation is pickled. The turnips texture and flavor perfectly suited for pickling and it’s easy to do at home. Submerge turnips pieces in a vinegar brine and keep in your fridge. These flavor treats are the perfect compliment for sandwiches, burgers, charcuterie board etc.
- Try turnips fried to go with eggs instead of potatoes. The other option is to mix equal amounts turnips and spuds. I suggest cutting them to the desired size, then pop into boiling water for 5 to six minutes. Drain, let dry then fry up the mix for the eggs. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and pepper and enjoy the unique flavor.
- Turnips lend themselves well to salads. Thin slices of turnip (use a grater or mandolin) are perfect in all kinds of salads. You can use baby turnips whole or pickled and whole on your cheese and meat boards.
- Try making a turnip and potato gratin. Turnips keep their texture and nutty flavor better than the spuds giving a much more enjoyable texture to the gratin.
- Steaming is a great way to cook turnips for a quick side dish. Steam till fork tender then toss with butter and sea salt. Turnip’s natural sweetness is preserved by steaming. Just don’t overcook.
- Turnips can make a brilliant mash for roasts and bbq dinners. Another of my favorites is “Dirty Mashed Potatoes.” Cube up potatoes, carrots, and turnips (dice carrots and turnips smaller than potatoes so they all cook at same rate). Cook to fork tender then mash all together with cream, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Then add ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese and finish with sliced spring onion for texture. I have also been known to add caramelized dice onions to the mash as well. Put your judgements on hold and try this recipe. I think you’ll soon be like me and find regular mashed potatoes just a tad boring after trying it.
Why You Must Roast Turnips
Roasted and caramelized, turnips are sweet, nutty, and delicious. It’s something you really should try. Either just turnips or add them to a mixture of root veggies for a brilliant side dish.
- Peel and trim you turnips.
- Cut the turnips into a fairly uniform size (same for other vegetables if you’re mixing). Sprinkle with salt, pepper and whatever extra seasoning you like.
- Place all the veggies on a baking tray then pop into a 400 F oven to cook till tender. Flip them once or twice during roasting to get even caramelization.