I bid you all a fond farewell after this plentiful harvest and thank you for reading Simply Fresh this CSA season. I hope you have found it entertaining, informative, and helpful. Hope to write again for you all next year! As a last hurrah, I will focus on the humble turnip.
Turnips are one of those vegetables that get a bad rap. Historically, they have fallen in and out of culinary favor like hairdos, despite the fact that they are healthful and can be quite delicious. Until becoming a CSA member, I had only experienced the turnip in an occasional Thanksgiving dish, so writing this blog has forced me to really get acquainted with this controversial vegetable.
What I have learned has surprised me. I found that younger turnips are really quite tasty raw. They have a bit of a radishy bite but are milder than radishes and are quite refreshing.
I also learned that turnips are often compared to potatoes in culinary circles. I can’t tell you how many culinary materials I have come across that suggested one treat turnips in cooking as you would a potato. However, I learned that turnips are just not the same as potatoes. Cooked turnips hold a lot more water and are much more fibrous. This results in a cooked product that has more water content and texture than your typical potato dish. Not that they aren’t delicious, but it helps to be aware of the differences when attempting to cook them.
The fiber and water content I experienced with turnips is suggestive of some of the ways that turnips are a healthful vegetable. They are low in calories and contain a good amount of dietary fiber, which means they fill you up without filling you out. They are also very high in vitamin C and are a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, and folate.
I have read that age can affect the taste and texture of a turnip. Apparently, with prolonged storage they become more bitter and fibrous. Young, small turnips don’t even need to be peeled. Thus, older turnips might not be as thin-skinned or as tasty raw as the ones we are receiving right now from the farm.
Turnips will store in either a cool, dry, well-ventilated area for a couple of months or unwashed in plastic in the refrigerator for about 1 month.
When turnips come with fresh green tops, EAT THE GREENS. They are so delicious and heathlful and can be treated like any other tender green (think spinach). Cut the greens from the bulbs and store them separately in the refrigerator. The greens will not last more than a few days. They tend to hold a lot of grit so make sure to clean them really well.
As for preparing turnips….do try a raw (young) turnip. Serve thin slices in your salad or try shredding it in coleslaw. Use it as a vegetable for your favorite dips, or even with peanut butter!
Turnips are excellent roasted, either on their own or with other root vegetables. They get wonderfully caramelized and sweet. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe even a little bit of maple syrup or fresh herbs or spices and roast, turning occasionally, until edges are golden and vegetables are tender (see recipe below).
Many recipes suggest mashing turnips with potatoes. The potatoes give the mash additional body. There are several ways to mash turnips and potatoes. If you boil them together and mash them with a hand masher you will end up with a delicious result, but it will be more watery and fibrous than regular mashed potatoes. For a smoother mashed product, use a potato ricer or a food processor. However, if you use a food processor, cook the potatoes and mash them by hand separately from the turnips—potatoes in the food processor lead to a very gluey mess. Just process the turnips until smooth and then mix in with the hand-mashed potatoes. If you use a ricer you will lose some of the inherent fiber in the turnips that won’t end up going through the ricing holes, but the result will be smoother than if you use a hand masher.
Another idea is to make a mixed vegetable puree for soup or to serve like a mash. This would work well with carrots, squash, or even apples, along with the turnips.
Turnips can also be sautéed or fried. Try adding julienned turnips to a stir-fry for something different. It is especially efficient to saute both the roots and the greens. Just sautee the roots first until tender, then add the greens and cook further just until they the greens wilt.
If you like to use a fryer, cook up some turnip fries or chips. I did try baking turnip chips in the oven. I sliced them very thin and tossed them with olive oil and salt and baked them at two different temperatures (400 and 325). While cooking time differed, the final result was similar. I got tasty morsels that were crisp on the edges and chewy in the center. However, they tended to burn before they got crisp. So while they were tasty, they weren’t exactly “chips” per se. I’ve had similar results when trying to bake turnip fries.
Finally, there is nothing more simple than adding turnips to soups, stews, and curries (yes, like a potato, but not, exactly).
The last thing I want to address is the difference between a rutabaga and a turnip. Rutabagas are actually a genetic cross between a turnip and a cabbage, belonging technically to the cabbage family. They tend to have yellow flesh and a faint cabbage taste, but can also be quite sweet, especially when young or when allowed to sweeten after a frost. They also tend to sweeten when cooked, especially when roasted. When young, rutabagas and certain varieties of turnips can look similar (whitish with purple tops), but typically, rutabagas are harvested when they are larger, as they don’t tend to get woody when they get more mature.
Because heavy rain is predicted for Tuesday, I likely won’t get to the farm until Thursday. I don’t want to make you all wait for the post, so I am writing this week before I actually go to the farm. I have one new turnip recipe I can share with you, but I thought I would also offer some fun and delicious sounding recipes I’ve encountered on the Internet (click on the recipe name to be directed to the recipe). They range from raw salads and quick pickles to grilled turnip to heavy stews.
Garlicky Turnip Fries with Pomegranate Molasses (don’t expect super crispy fries, but these are crispier than what I have come up with with just olive oil.
This is a highly flavorful salad that is wonderful for fall entertaining.
5-spice powder is a Chinese seasoning blend that contains cinnamon and star anise. It is a warming spice mix perfect for fall. It can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores. If you don’t wish to purchase it, try substituting with a couple pinches of cinnamon and allspice.
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