Eat Local! Turnips
January 31, 2018
Turnips have a long history as a “bottom of the barrel” food, reserved for the less fortunate or used as livestock feed during times of hardship. From getting tossed at criminals by Roman soldiers, to serving as the primary ration for soldiers and civilians alike in World Wars I and II due to food shortages, turnips have historically been labeled as a less than ideal vegetable. However, before you pass up the root vegetable stand, give these versatile nutrition gems a try.
Turnips are technically a member of the Brassica family which includes vegetables such as mustard greens, cabbage, and broccoli. This particular family of plants is well known for its cancer-fighting antioxidants including lutein and glucosinolates. Turnips are bursting with a variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C to help fight cold and flu symptoms, and potassium, which is needed to help maintain fluid balance and strong bones. Most fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, and turnips are no exception. Fiber is a critical nutrient that is necessary to help feed the good bacteria in your gut (called probiotics) that help prevent chronic diseases, lower blood sugar and blood pressure, and help with weight loss. Furthermore, don’t toss out your turnip greens as they’re chock full of vitamin A and iron!
Turnips are generally plump and pale in color, tapering off to a purplish or reddish hue at the tip. Large turnips have a slightly tangy, woodsy flavor and are tasty if mashed or roasted, while smaller turnips are milder and can be tossed into salads and wraps to add crunch. Be sure to peel before boiling. To prevent food waste and boost your vitamin intake, try lightly steaming your turnip leaves and tossing with olive oil, pepper, and garlic (The World’s Healthiest Foods at whfoods.com recommends steaming turnip greens for just 5 minutes for maximum flavor and nutrition). Rutabaga, which you also may see in the produce section, is a cross between a cabbage and turnip. Turnips and rutabagas have a short growing season, are easy to grow, and thrive in cold climates, making them a perfect winter vegetable for North Idaho!
Try this tasty turnip recipe from www.epicurious.com as a side dish to roasted meats or poultry:
Active time (20 mins), Start to finish (35 mins)
Makes 4 servings
- 2 lbs. small to medium (2-inch) turnips
- About 1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Garnish: chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Peel turnips, then halve horizontally and quarter halves. Arrange turnips in 1 layer in a 12-inch heavy skillet and add enough water (about 1 1/2 cups) to reach halfway up turnips. Add butter, sugar, and salt and boil over moderately high heat, covered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Boil turnips, uncovered, stirring, until tender and water has evaporated, about 8 minutes.
Sauté turnips over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Add 3 tablespoons water and stir to coat turnips with glaze.
Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a Registered Dietitian and food and health freelance writer based out of Coeur d’Alene, ID.