The Turnip- A Fully Edible Plant
Autumn is upon us, and the garden has been generous so far this season. For the past three or four weeks we have been regularly harvesting greens, but now the time has finally come for something a bit more substantial. The first turnips of the season are ready to pull! Yes, we have cheated by mixing a few turnip leaves in with the collard greens. We enjoy the potency that turnip tops add to the mix. Now the roots will be a welcome addition to the menu.
Some Interesting Facts About Turnips
Turnips may not be the most fashionable food, but they happen to be very cosmopolitan. They are traditional cooking ingredients in locations as diverse as the American South, Sweden, Turkey, India, Japan and everywhere in between. Turnips were domesticated in ancient times in western Asia and Europe. In northern Europe they were crossed with cabbage to create the rutabaga (aka. Swede). They are known today as a staple for both humans and livestock in temperate zones all over the world.
Turnips are highly regarded for their healthful benefits. A cup of boiled turnip (roots) contains:
- 25 mg sodium
- 276 mg potassium
- 3.1 g fiber
- 1.1 g protein
- as well as calcium, vitamins A, C, E and K, iron, vitamin B-6 and magnesium
A cup of turnip greens offers even more:
- 42 mg sodium
- 292 mg potassium
- 5 g fiber
- 1.6 g protein
- and significantly higher concentrations of vitamins
Turnips have high concentrations of glucosinolates: compounds with antioxidant and anticancer properties. They have traditionally been used to help treat chest congestion, and they have diaphoretic properties that can help fight fever. The high levels of vitamin C help fight infection. Turnips are also recommended for individuals with gout or rheumatic diseases.
But Do They Taste Good?
At their best, the roots have texture similar to potato and flavor similar to cauliflower but slightly stronger. If they get too old before harvest, or grow under stressful conditions (too hot and dry, or too wet), the flavor and/or texture can be adversely effected. Raw turnips have a stronger “bite” than cooked ones. Roasted turnips are a bit sweeter than boiled ones.
An easy way to incorporate turnips into your menu is to boil and mash them like potatoes. Add butter and salt as you would with regular mashed potatoes. The result is a tasty lower calorie side dish. If you are new to turnips are not too keen on the taste, try mixing the turnips with a few potatoes when you mash them. This is how we get our kids to eat them! I am sure Debbie will have some turnip inspired recipes coming soon. Happy Gardening!