In honor of this tasty winter vegetable, here are some fun things you probably didn’t know about turnips!
Turnips were first cultivated in India almost three thousand years ago for the oil in their seeds. They were a common crop in Greek and Roman culture where they cultivated as a staple food for the working class. Because of their pungent flavor and associations with the lower and working classes, most upper crust Romans refused to eat turnips. Those who did were known to flavor them with cumin and honey.
There is evidence to suggest that a large portion of turnip cultivation took place in western Asia and Europe where many of the turnips cousins, such as mustard and radishes, can be found. In the 18th Century farmers in England discovered that they could keep their livestock alive year round by growing winter crops of turnips for them to eat.
Turnips are one of a number of vegetables that can be left in the ground all winter long and then harvested the following Spring or Summer. They are good to eat the whole year round but they are usually sweetest between November and January. Turnips are a very hearty plant that can be grown in lots of kinds of soils that other vegetables wouldn’t and can thrive in weather that would kill more particular plants. They are perfectly suited to be grown in Washington!
In addition to being tasty turnips are really good for you. The roots are high in vitamin C, the greens are high in vitamins A, C and K, and the whole plant is fat and cholesterol free making it heart healthy. Though turnips are a starchy vegetable they have only a third amount of the calories as potatoes, which means that even if you’re on a diet you should be eating turnips.
Here are two of my favorite ways to cook turnips:
Cut two strips of thick pepper bacon into ½ inch pieces.
Cut the turnip greens into 1 ½ inch pieces.
Fry the bacon in a pan on medium heat until it is mostly cooked and the bacon grease covers most of the bottom of the pan.
Put the turnip greens in with the bacon and cook for 5 mins or until the greens are tender.
Sprinkle with a little ground black pepper and enjoy!
– for a special holiday meal try putting a tablespoon of real maple syrup in with the bacon.
Put 3 cups of peeled and chopped turnips in a pan with ¼ cup of chicken stock.
Simmer until the stock has almost entirely evaporated and the turnips are tender, which should be about 15 minutes.
Gently stir in 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
Gently stir for another 6 to 10 minutes until the sugar has melted and has formed a sticky coating over the turnips.
Serve and enjoy!