Everyone has an opinion on turnips. They either like them or they don’t, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about turnips’ super-nutritious greens or crunchy roots. This food finickiness can present a problem in autumn, when turnips plump up like magic in gardens. The next thing you know, your house is divided into turnip lovers and turnip haters, and cooking from the garden has become a sticky business. Here are several great recipe ideas to help turn your harvest of turnips into dishes your family likes to eat!
As long as they are gathered while young and tender, turnip greens can be substituted for spinach or chard in any recipe, including creamy turnip green dip. Simply place well-washed raw leaves in a pot with a tight-fitting lid, and steam for 10 minutes or so. If the greens are not dripping wet, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water to provide sufficient steam. When the greens are well wilted and tender, chop them into small pieces with a sharp knife, and mash out excess moisture with the back of a large spoon. Immediately stir 1 clove garlic, minced very fine, into the hot greens. Then stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons cream cheese (or lesser amounts of goat, feta, or even bleu cheese). Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm with pita or corn chips.
This recipe is open to endless interpretations, and can be topped with buttered breadcrumbs and baked into to casserole that goes well with any type of seafood. You can also use it to stuff a calzone or as a creamy ingredient in a hot pasta dishes. Fresh sage, thyme, oregano or basil make excellent accent herbs.
Many folks who don’t like turnips do like mashed turnips with potatoes, in which chunks of peeled potato and turnips are cooked together until both are tender. Milk, salt and pepper go in as the drained vegetables are mashed. A small amount of sugar is often added to help smooth out any rough flavour edges, but when working with garden-grown turnips that mature in cool soil, taste before adding sugar. Or here’s another idea: add a finely chopped apple to the hot drained vegetables along with a pinch of cinnamon. The subtle sweetness of the apple works surprisingly well marrying the flavours and textures of turnips and potatoes.
Before you get too experimental with turnips in casseroles, you should try the simple Finnish version in which mashed turnip is bound with eggs and bread crumbs, and subtly sweetened with brown sugar. You might also try turnips in various cheesy gratins, or swimming in a bubbling cream sauce in the company of braised mushrooms.
Turnips are great roasted, which involves tossing chunks of peeled turnip with salt, pepper and enough olive oil to make them slick. They caramelise beautifully when roasted uncovered in a hot oven, and do even better when a tablespoon or two of maple syrup and a generous sprinkling of fresh sage are added to the roasting pan. Honey combined with fresh rosemary can put a different flavour spin on roasted turnips, too.
Pickled turnips are popular in several parts of the world, where the most classic versions are fermented for a short time (recipes vary from 5 to 30 days). You also can pickle turnips in various sweet, salty, or savory brines. Regardless of method, most pickled turnip recipes make use of a piece of red beet, which provides dazzling pink color. When making turnip pickles, be sure to follow recipes exactly to make sure you have a safe and proper acid level for pickling and canning purposes.
By Barbara Pleasant