Thursday, June 2, 2016

Featured Vegetable of the week: Baby White Turnips

By Andrea Yoder

Baby white turnips, also known as salad turnips, are a beautiful little vegetable…pristine we call them. They are tender with a sweet, mild flavor. They also have a wonderful crunchy texture that makes a great healthy snack. Salad turnips are rich in vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, folic acid and low in calories. Not only is the root part of the plant delicious, the greens are also mild in flavor and are great raw or sautéed. 

We plant the white turnips for harvest early in the season. This cool weather spring plant is harvested while still small and tender when the sweet flavor matches its delicate appearance. Compared to the common purple top turnip or other storage turnip varieties, salad turnips are much more sweet and subtle in texture. The turnips that we grow in the fall are meant for storage purposes and have a thicker skin compared to the thin skin of the salad turnip. Baby white turnips mature much faster than beets, carrots and fennel, so they are a very important part of our spring diet while we wait for other vegetables to come in. To prolong the life of your white turnips in storage, separate the greens from the roots with a knife and store separately in zip-lock bags in your refrigerator.  
To prepare the turnips for use in your home, make sure the roots and greens are rinsed thoroughly. Next, trim the root end of each turnip. The root is very tender with a thin layer of skin, so it does not have to be peeled.  Baby white turnips are delicious eaten raw in a salad, or just munch on them with dip or hummus. The greens may be added to salads raw, or you can wilt them down with a warm vinaigrette. When cooking baby white turnips, remember that they shine on their own so keep the cooking time short and the preparation simple. Honestly, they are tasty just simply sautéed in butter with the greens wilted on top. I also like to quarter the turnips and add them to a hot pan while searing a steak or pork chop. You can also stir-fry or roast them or add them to light and simple spring soups. 

Sautéed Spring Turnips with Their Greens and a Touch of Ham

Yield:  4 servings

1 bunch baby white turnips, with greens attached
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 oz smoked ham
½ tsp kosher salt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Separate the greens from the turnips, discarding the thin connective stems. Trim the root end from each turnip and discard. Wash the turnips and the greens well and dry them. Halve the turnips and slice them ¼-inch thick. Coarsely chop the greens and keep them in a separate pile.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced turnips and ham and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, until the turnips start to soften. Stir in the salt and turnip greens and cook for about 2 minutes, until the greens wilt.  Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and add more salt, pepper or vinegar if needed. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Recipe borrowed from Laura Russell’s book, Brassicas.

Shaved Turnip and Radish Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Yield: 4 servings

¼ cup cold-pressed olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Grated zest of 1 organic lemon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ shallot, diced
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp honey or maple syrup
Fine sea salt, to taste
2 spring turnips
4 medium radishes
A few small handfuls of salad mix or other tender greens
½ pound asparagus spears
3 Tbsp minced chives or green onion tops

  1. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest, mustard, shallot, poppy seeds, honey and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. 
  2. Using a mandolin, slice the turnips and radishes into thin translucent rounds.  Put them in a large bowl and add the Salad Mix.  If the asparagus spears are large, slice them in half and add them to the bowl.  Pour the dressing over and fold gently to combine.  
  3. Season with more salt if needed, arrange on plates, and sprinkle with the chives or green onions before serving.

Recipe adapted from Sarah Britton’s book, My New Roots.

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