Turnips suffer from an image problem. The truth is that local turnips are healthy, sweet, long lasting, and easy to grow. But when was the last time you ate turnips?
Turnips have been used as starvation food, as well as animal feed. They aren’t as flashy as the summer vegetables, but they are great fall vegetables that are worth growing or buying to cook at home.
Local Turnip Flavor
Turnips are a root vegetable best grown in spring and fall. Local turnips may be found in the winter markets right now because they are easy to grow and last a long time.
Have you eaten turnips before? What do turnips taste like?
Raw local turnips have crunchy white flesh that tastes similar to cabbage. They can be mildly spicy raw, and become spicier as they age, bitter even. Cook them if they aren’t good raw.
Cooked local turnips can be sweet, nutty, or earthy when cooked. They become soft and velvety. Roast them or mash them for a unique flavor, or mix them up with other root vegetables.
Local turnip greens are also edible. The leaves get more bitter as they grow, some find them spicier too. You can eat them raw in a salad for a peppery flavor, similar but not as strong as arugula. You can cook them as well.
Finding Local Turnips
Turnips are best as a fall crop, though they can also grow in spring. They are brassicas, like broccoli, cabbage, and mustard greens. You will find them most often in fall and winter, from October through March.
Turnips are a very easy crop to grow, and they grow fast. You can eat both greens and the roots (much like radishes). Fall crops are usually sweeter and more tender, plus have less pest problems.
You can germinate turnips in only a few days. After a month, you’ll enjoy their greens, and within two to three months total, the roots will be ready.
Turnips are usually white, but their tops can turn purple or green where they are exposed to sunlight. Most are round. You can find some turnip varieties that are cylindrical, or have red or yellow skins. There are also types that are grown just for greens.
Since there isn’t a lot of demand for turnips, you might not see many at the farmers markets. Try them when you see them, and ask farmers to grow more if you like them!
Preserving Local Turnips
Turnips, like so many root vegetables, are great at keeping as is. In a root cellar, they can last for months. Even in less than ideal conditions, root vegetables can last a long time.
If you are growing turnips yourself, they can stay in the garden, after heavy mulching. Maryland’s climate is great for storing root veggies in the ground.
You can also freeze your local turnips. You can freeze them raw (after blanching), or already cooked. Make a large amount of mashed turnip or roasted turnips and save the excess for later.
Pickled turnips are a delicious option as well. Pickling means you can water bath can them for later.
Dried turnips can be added to soups and stews later.
Local Turnip Recipes
Turnips can be enjoyed raw or cooked. They can be used as a substitute for potatoes, or mixed with a group of hearty root vegetables. Greens are also good raw or cooked.
Younger turnips are better raw, as they get more bitter and spicy as they age. Choose your recipes based on the condition of your turnips. If they are old, mix them up with salt, butter, or cream to make them taste rich.
Turnip skins are where the most bitter parts are, so make sure to peel them.
Turnips are good with butter and cream, as well as with fresh herbs that are sweet and floral. Try dill, rosemary, or basil with your turnips.
Like smashed potatoes? You might prefer a lower carb option of Parmesan Crusted Crushed Turnips as well.
For some Indian flavor, you can also try this Vegan Turnip Dhal recipe. Turnips can be added to lots of recipes because they are not strongly flavored.
Don’t forget the turnip greens! If you don’t want to use them in a fresh salad, try making Spicy Skillet Turnip Greens.
Local Turnip Facts
The winter of 1916 to 1917 was known as “Kohlrübenwinter”, or the “turnip winter”, in Germany. Due to WWI, Germany was blockaded and they had a failed potato harvest. Turnips, usually used as animal feed, were used to feed the population instead.
Turnips may be used as animal feed now, and still have a poor reputation as human food. I encourage you to try making turnips. They are healthy, they last forever, and are easy to grow. Try some turnips this winter!