Don’t Turn Your Nose Up At Turnips!

“T” is for tardy. My plan was to write about a vegetable each month but I have noticed that my I’m Strong To The Finish If I Eat My Spinach post was published in late March.

It’s almost half-way through June so I thought I’d better hop to it. “T” is for turnip.

The letter "T" in Chelsea Design  – "The Hipsterette's" favourite font

The letter “T” in Chelsea Design – “The Hipsterette’s” favourite font.

Let’s give turnips back their self-esteem! Turnips have been around for a long time – about 4,000 years – but have not always been a popular vegetable. The Ancients (Greeks and Romans) reputedly threw turnips at unpopular figures (tomatoes not being available in these times).

It's time to appreciate and (maybe even love) turnips!

It’s time to appreciate and (maybe even love) turnips!

This may have been influenced by the fact that turnips were the primary food of poor country folks in ancient Greece and Rome. Although a few upper class Romans ate turnips, they masked the taste by seasoning it with cumin or honey.

These upper class Romans liked their turnips served with honey or spiced with cumin!

These upper class Romans liked their turnips served with honey or spiced with cumin!

Photo courtesy http://www.historynotes.info

Before the arrival of the potato, turnips were one of the main sources of sustenance for the English peasantry. Turnips have an assertive spiciness and earthy flavour so it is not surprising that you find them featured in all manner of peasant dishes, stocks, soups and stews, including the classic French pot-au-feu.

"Woman Cleaning Turnips", 1738, by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (2 November 1699 – 6 December 1779) who was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities

“Woman Cleaning Turnips”, 1738, by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (2 November 1699 – 6 December 1779) who was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities. Photo in public domain.

It also does not help that navet (the French word for turnip) is also used to describe a theatrical flop, in much the same way turkey is used in English. Then there are those other connotations – some might associate the word turnip with a “stupid person” or “blockhead”.  Turnip is also used as an adjective to describe some rather unpleasant things, such as turnip flea beetles, turnip louses and turnip weeds.

The turnip louse feeds on the underside of the leaves of turnips making them curl and turn yellow

The turnip louse feeds on the underside of the leaves of turnips making them curl and turn yellow.

The North American turnip, which was introduced by the English, is known by the name Brassica rapa (or rutabaga). It comes in several shapes and may display one of up to half a dozen colors around the top. But according to some, such as Jonathan Franzen (the highly acclaimed US novelist), they do not possess the degree of flavor finesse of the French navet.

Consider this exquisitely complicated passage from his novel, The Corrections:

As her children construct a model penitentiary complete with electric chair of Popsicle sticks, Enid whips up “liver ‘n’ bacon” with mashed rutabagas and beet greens, a family meal abhorred by all but Enid, who appreciates the nutrition and mostly the thrift of this concoction. The oldest child, Gary, has learned to not only placate his parents for household peace’s sake, but to do so enthusiastically, gobbles up the food to get it out of sight. Enid’s middle child, Chipper, also (much to his own disadvantage) Albert’s favourite, looks on his plate and sees “the dogshit-yellow field of rutabaga; the liver warped by frying . . . the ball of woody beet leaves collapsed and contorted.” Chip realises “how his entire dinner might be scarfable in no time.” He tries, but feels “his guts convulsed in a spine-bending gag”.

The children of this family say "no thanks" to overcooked rutabaga.

The children of this family say “no thanks” to overcooked rutabaga.

Enough to put you off rutabagas, navets, turnips (or whatever you want to call them) for life? But before your make your final decision, think about the comments of those who consider the turnip to be an under appreciated root vegetable that deserves more respect.

I am pretty sure Peter Rabbit likes carrots and turnips!

I am pretty sure Peter Rabbit likes carrots and turnips!

I was raised almost entirely on turnips and potatoes, but I think that the turnips had more to do with the effect than the potatoes. Marlene Dietrich

Marlene owes some of her success to turnips!

Marlene owes some of her success to turnips!

Photo courtesy galleryhip.com

Given that Marlene Dietrich was considered one of the most beautiful women of her generation, a top Hollywood box office draw, an accomplished musician (she was a concert violinist before deciding to become an actress) and singer, I’d say the “turnip effect” was pretty good, wouldn’t you?

These embroidered turnips are a work of art - literally!

These embroidered turnips are a work of art – literally!

Photo courtesy http://www.emblibrary.com

Turnip Tips

Why not mash it up?

Turnips can be used along with celery root and parsnip as a more flavoursome variation on mashed potatoes.

Mashed potato and turnip

Mashed potato and turnip. Photo in public domain.

Why not juice it up?

Turnip juice or – Şalgam suyu – has been the national drink in Turkey for hundreds of years, and it is very healthy. But if you are not a hard-core juicer, you might initially be put off by its strong flavour. Beginners are recommended to combine with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrots.

Those who acquire the taste find it delicious and refreshing. Not convinced? Turnip juice is known to have high concentrations of nutrients that help the body fight diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, liver and bladder problems.

Most people prefer turnip juice combined with the juices of other vegetables

Most people prefer turnip juice combined with the juices of other vegetables.

It contains a lot of Vitamin C – surprisingly higher amounts than orange juice. This powerful antioxidant aids the body in clearing lung and bronchus congestion and improving blood circulation. Turnip juice can also help remove kidney stones, calms the nerves, strengthen bones and teeth and lowers the level of bad cholesterol in the body.

And if that’s not enough – turnip juice can cure body odor. By extracting the juice of turnips and rubbing it on your underarm, you can keep bad underarm odor at bay for 10 hours.

Why not add it to your soups?

Turnip, leek and potato soup – a simple French soup that works well regardless of which vegetable gets the emphasis. If you want to vary the proportions of vegetables you can; it works well whether you emphasise the turnips, as is done in this recipe, or the leeks or the potatoes. Turnips have a slightly bitter edge, and tarragon makes a lovely sweet garnish. Chives would also work. Try this turnip, leek and potato soup recipe.

Turnips are the perfect vegetable to add to soups!

Turnips are the perfect vegetable to add to soups!

Photo courtesy vintageprintable.com

Leek, turnip and rice soup – this simple, fragrant soup is delicious as thick vegetable soup, not puréed. It becomes a different soup altogether when you purée it. The choice is up to you. Try this leek, turnip and rice soup recipe.

Why not do like the Romans, and add a bit of honey?

Honey-glazed turnips

  • 1 to 2 medium-sized turnips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 2/3 cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Directions

  • Peel the turnips and cut into 8 to 12 wedges, depending on size
  • Place wedges in a saucepan along with the butter cut up in small pieces
  • Add the water, honey, salt and pepper
  • Cover the pan and place over medium heat for 15 minutes
  • Uncover the pan and continue to cook until water evaporates and turnips are glazed (this takes about 5 minutes)
  • Shake pan occasionally

Serving suggestions

  • Pork
  • Ham
  • Duck
Add a bit of honey to create a new taste sensation!

Add a bit of honey to create a new taste sensation! Photo in public domain.


Why not try Vegan style?

Oven braised turnips prepared cut, instead of mashed, is a great way to really enjoy the true earthy flavor of turnips. It can be used as a very tasty side dish, or even eaten as a light lunch with a fresh salad. Try this oven braised turnips Vegan style recipe.

What turnip recipe will you try out first?

 

4 Comments on Don’t Turn Your Nose Up At Turnips!

  1. Allan Gardiner
    June 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm (2 years ago)

    I want to know if you tried out the underarm deodorant idea.

    Reply
    • The Hipsterette
      June 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm (2 years ago)

      No, not yet, but when I run out of my spray on, who knows!

      Reply

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