Friday, September 26, 2014

Vegetable Feature: Turnips

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz

Baby White Turnips
In Europe, turnips were once the vegetable of choice to throw at someone as an insult, and an eligible English maiden would present her suitor with a turnip when rejecting him. As you can see, our vegetable feature this week has certainly experienced its fair share of ups and downs over the course of history. A great degree of this unfortunate reputation can be attributed to the fact that turnips were (and still are, though to a lesser extent) often used as livestock fodder and were thus prone to being viewed as unfit for human consumption. Fortunately, turnips seem to be making their way back into the good graces of consumers, though we at Harmony Valley Farm have loved them all along! With the arrival of fall and knowing that colder days are just around the corner, now’s the perfect time to get acquainted with this wonderful, versatile veggie.

As members of the mustard family, you may hear turnips referred to as Brassicas—a classification they share with cabbage, kohlrabi and cauliflower, to name just a few. Turnips are what we call a cool-weather crop, in that they do best in the chillier days of spring and with the nearing of fall, when we see a drop in the nighttime temperatures. We grow two different classes of turnips. The baby white turnips in your box this week are classified as a salad turnip and are planted early in the spring and again in the fall. These pristine beauties are more similar in size to radishes and have a sweet, mild flavor and tender texture. They are harvested with their green tops which are also edible. The greens are quite nutritious and are a good source of vitamins A, K, and C. The greens can be eaten raw or lightly sautéed. Baby white turnips are meant to be eaten within a week or so after you receive them and are not meant to be stored.

Our second class of turnips, on the other hand, are grown for their storage potential. These include the common purple top turnip as well as two of our favorite varieties—Golden & Sweet Scarlet. The latter two are characterized not only by their colorful skin, but they are also more mild & sweeter in flavor than the traditional purple top turnips. Storage turnips are very dense and have a thicker skin making them better for storage throughout the fall and well into the winter. During a time when eating seasonally was more a necessity than a choice, turnips were often a staple due to their ability to endure long-term storage. Today, the average household likely keeps turnips around for a week or two by storing them in the fridge. You can, however, make them last for up to six months if you store them correctly.
Scarlet Turnips

This week’s baby white turnips really just need a quick scrub to remove any residual dirt. Given their thin, tender skin, there is really no need to peel them. From here, you can eat them raw—sliced or grated into a salad. They can also be lightly cooked with a quick saute or stir-fry, gentle boiling or steaming, or you can even roast them. Storage turnips are a great addition to a hearty soup or stew. You can even mash them, just as you would potatoes. Hold onto this information and refer to it in November and December when we include storage turnips in your box.

Quick Stir-Fried Celery & Turnips
Recipe by Andrea Yoder

Serves 3-4
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1-2 dried red chiles
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
1½ cups celery, sliced thinly
4-6 baby white turnips, medium diced
2 Tbsp soy sauce

1. Heat a wok, cast-iron skillet or a sauté pan over high heat. Make sure all of your ingredients are ready before you start to cook.

2. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to the hot pan and add the dried chiles. It’s best to tear or cut the chiles open. The quantity of peppers will be based on your heat tolerance.

3. Stir the chiles to keep them moving so they get toasted, but not burned. After about 45 seconds, add the garlic and continue to move the garlic to keep it from burning.

4. Immediately follow the garlic with the mushrooms and continue to stir-fry until the mushrooms are softened. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil along with the celery and turnips. Stir-fry for several minutes or until the vegetables are tender, yet still crispy. Turn off the heat and add the soy sauce. Stir to combine the soy sauce with all the vegetables. Serve immediately. 

**Note: This is an incredibly simple preparation that is a delicious accompaniment to meals such as teriyaki beef with steamed rice or hoisin chicken and rice.

Roasted Squash with Turnips, Apples & Caramelized Onions

Recipe by Andrea Yoder

Serves 3-4 
2 cups winter squash, medium dice
6 tsp sunflower or olive oil, divided
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2 medium apples, medium dice
4-6 baby white turnips, medium dice
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp salt
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil

⅓-½ cup toasted squash seeds or chopped hazelnuts

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a medium baking dish, toss winter squash with 2 tsp of oil. Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven. Roast for 15-20 minutes, then add the apples and white turnips along with 2 tsp more oil. Stir to combine the vegetables and return to the oven. Continue to roast the vegetables for an additional 30-40 minutes or until the apples and vegetables are soft, tender and lightly browned.

2. While the vegetables are roasting, heat a medium sauté pan on the stove top over medium-low heat. Add 2 tsp oil, onions, fennel seeds, dried thyme and ½ tsp salt. Cook over low heat for about 20-25 minutes or until the onions are soft and a light brown in color. You will need to stir them frequently and adjust the heat in order to caramelize them and not fry them.

3. Once the onions are caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the apple cider vinegar. Add the butter and let it melt in the warm pan. Stir to combine everything and then set aside.

4. Once the vegetables are roasted, remove the pan from the oven and stir the onions into the hot vegetables. Put in a serving bowl and top with toasted squash seeds or hazelnuts.

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