Turnips

Many people think of turnips as woody, leaden spheres, the color of baseballs and with about as much culinary appeal. Yet now, with more and more varieties available, it is possible to eat tender young turnips very lightly cooked or even raw. Another amazement in the turnip universe is the array of available colors: red-skinned, purple-tipped, pearl-white, golden-yellow. A salad of all these, thinly sliced in rounds, can be as bright and festive as a basket of confetti.

No one would suspect that turnips are the same vegetable once ranked, by whole nations, too low for edible consideration. Even hungry New Englanders disdained them as plebeian, though they ate them to prevent scurvy, preferably with mutton. Early New Yorkers ate them in a Dutch combo: boiled and mashed with potatoes and smeared with butter. The Pennsylvania Dutch often made coleslaw with turnips instead of cabbage, a concept similar to turnip kraut, a variation on cabbage sauerkraut. The Scottish actually ate turnips willingly with their haggis (which they also ate willingly), but they referred to them by the rather pugnacious name "bashed neeps." (Turnips were originally called "neeps," from the Latin word for turnip, napus, which also gave rise to the French word navet. The prefix turn refers to their spherical shape.)

Perhaps the apotheosis of tumipdom is the French stew Navarin a la Printaniere, made with young turnips and spring lamb. Escoffier may have paid turnips their highest compliment by turning them into his lyrical stuffed turnips (navets farcis); but perhaps even more surprising, Goethe himself had a favorite turnip recipe: "Turnips are good," he proclaimed in his Prose Maxims, "but they are best mixed with chestnuts."

A member of the cabbage family, turnips are similar in appearance to such root vegetables as rutabagas and swedes (originally Swedish turnips). In general, turnips are smoother than these cousins and have several circles of ridges at the base of their leaves. For cooking purposes, they can an be used interchangeably.

Turnips have been around a long time: they were enjoyed by Greek epicures (who favored those from Thebes) and by Roman gourmets (their turnips had to be from Amitermes). In one Roman dish, turnips were presented in sixteen different colors, though the favorite, by far, was purple. In the Orient, tender strips of turnip make a quick and delicious stir-fry. But no discussion of turnips is complete without due homage to the man they called "Turnip" Townshend, who, in the early 1700s, introduced a bevy of unknown Dutch turnip varieties to England. Although his efforts had beneficial effects on the way people thought about turnips, they also (unfortunately for "Turnip") changed the way people referred to the man who brought them. He had been known previously as "Lord" Townshend.

Turnips contain potassium and iron and are a good source of vitamin C- about 36 calories per cup.

Storing and Cooking

Because of their high water content, turnips deteriorate quickly. Store, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Cook in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Steam for 12 minutes.

This information came from the Sally's Place web site.



Turnip Recipes:

Garlic-Mashed Turnips and Potatoes

Did you know?

Kitchen Garden Day, August 24, 2008
International Kitchen Garden Day is a global celebration of delicious locally produced foods. It is an opportunity for people around the world to gather in their gardens and fields with friends, family, and members of their local communities to enjoy the multiple pleasures and benefits of locally-grown, home-cooked, organic foods. Kitchen Garden Day is coordinated by Kitchen Gardeners International.

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~George Washington Carver

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