“ A root vegetable commonly grown in temperate climates worldwide for its white, bulbous taproot. Small, tender varieties are grown for human consumption, while larger varieties are grown as feed for livestock. Turnips are notably popular in Europe, particularly in its colder parts, because they grow well in cold climates and can be stored for several months after harvest. „
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If you're looking for an easy crop to grow that's relatively fast from seed to cropping, try a turnip! Turnips have a bit of a bad reputation as being unfashionable, and woe betide the parent who suggests to their children that they have turnips for tea - you'll get looks that could melt the polar ice caps. However, with a bit of cunning, turnips can be easily disguised if needs be and make a tasty addition to home cooked foods. Right, lets get growing.
Turnips are related to cabbages believe it or not, as they are in the brassica family which involves Swedes and sprouts too. They're not massive in size, but if you let them get too big they go "woody" and aren't as palatable as younger, smaller turnips. Also, the leafy tops can be eaten as a salad veg or can be steamed and had like spinach. In the early nineties, turnips suffered their worst ever public relations crisis when the then England manager, Graeme Taylor, was turned into a turnip headed characature on the back pages of a popular tabloid newspaper. I thought this was very unfair to the turnip.
Growing your own
This is the easiest part - getting your kids to eat them will be much harder! Plant the seeds from late march onwards about a centimetre deep in rich compost, and don't let them dry out. Brassicas don't like having their roots disturbed so plant them directly out where you want them to grow. Put each seed about ten to fifteen centimetres apart, with fifteen centimetres between the rows. As with most plants, weed between the rows regularly unless you're a mother earth type and are in to "permaculture" - an adjective for "lazy gardening"! Keep moist but not drenched, and within about 6 weeks you'll be pulling your first turnips out, which will be smaller than a tennis ball but bigger than a golf ball. If you want a steady supply of turnips over the growing season, plant some more seeds out every fortnight or so.
The type I always grow are called "purple top milan", and have a lovely white creamy bottom and a bright purple top, with creamy white flesh underneath the skin. Allow me to come across all poetic here, but they do look ever so pretty with their purple tops just showing above the soil under a bright green leafy crown; there aren't many purple vegetables so it's good to see a bit of colour in the vegetable garden.
You can get seed packets really cheaply if you shop around - Ive found that Wilkinson's own brand are just as reliable as more expensive types for a fraction of the cost. Also, you'll probably get an average of a couple of hundred seeds per pack, so that's superb for value for money if you were to buy fresh turnips from a supermarket instead. Also, with growing your own turnips as opposed to shop bought ones, you know exactly what chemical treatments (if any) have been applied to the soil.
Diseases / Pests
Being a brassica, they can be prone to club root, but this is easily prevented by growing them in raised beds if you suspect your garden has club root in the soil. Any soil you intend to grow turnips (or any other brassica) in should be free draining and slightly alkali - club root thrives in wet acidic soil, so by adding plenty of grit and lime to your soil or compost you can alter the conditions favourably.
Turnips can also be affected by cabbage root flies. It's not the actual fly that does the damage, it's the maggots that hatch from the eggs they lay. These maggots will burrow through the soil and eat into your turnips, which will ruin your crop for eating and kill the plant eventually. The best way I've found of preventing this is to prevent access to the flies themselves, by covering my crop with a light horticultural fleece. The fleece should be able to let light and water through, but not pests, so don't be tempted to use plastic sheeting as this won't allow any water to get through.
I once learned the hard way that turnips don't keep very well in certain conditions. I'd pulled a load of turnips out of the garden one day, lovingly washed all the soil off and dried them, wrapped each one individually in newspaper and stored in a dark cupboard. Very diligent and very organised food storage, the perfect method for surviving zombie outbreaks and nuclear winters. Two weeks later I went to my stash, only to find that they had dried out and withered down to the size of a grape! They were completely unrecognisable as turnips and at first I thought my wife had played a trick on me. From then on, I now only ever cook turnips fresh from the garden or peel, blanche and dice them before throwing into food bags and deep freezing.
I add diced turnip into stews and soups - the kids don't seem to be able to distinguish it from diced potato in the same dishes, so I can get away with adding a bit more variety into their diet in a sneaky way! It also makes a good substitute for swede, goes well with carrots, and for a really hearty mash, try mashing turnips with potatoes and celeriac.
Spring is nearly with us - if you've got some bubble wrap to cover your soil you could even try planting some turnip seeds outside towards the end of this month instead of waiting till the warmer times that March promises. Also, as they grow so quickly, you'll be rewarded in next to no time with lots of lovely fresh turnips that you can use to add a different dimension to the average Sunday roast dinner.
Traditionally Turnips are thought of as a root crop, and are commonly grown and consumed as such. To be honest, im not a huge fan, but if home grown, picked when small, and eaten freshly, they are fairly delicious.
My main experience of them though, has been from the supermarkets. Where they are almost always available at close to 'animal feed' size, and consequently are unfortunately fairly bland tasting, even when combined with more powerful flavours. (Although saying that, creamy mashed Neeps with melted Gruyere through it, does taste incredibly nice).
Interestingly, and probably a surprise to many, the Turnip genus are a sub-species of the huge Brassica group. So that includes things like Cabbage, Cauliflowers, Broccoli, and even the yellow peril which has become popular amongst UK farmers recently, the Rape Seed plants (called Canola elsewhere).
However in Italy there is a particular variety of the Turnip family (latin name Rapa) which is grown specifically for its foilage and edible flower head, which are worlds apart in taste, and from a health point of view are extremely good for you, especially in comparison to the carbohydrate packed root crop.
The variety I am talking about, are called Cima Di Rapa [Chim-ah Dee Rapp-ah] or sometimes referred to in Italy as Broccoli Rapa. In the UK these are sometimes called Turnip Tops, although strictly speaking technically, they are a different sub-genus of the plant.
These are my dads favourite veggie, and form part of the vital ingredient for the famous classic Italian recipe "Orichette con Cima Di Rapa".
Basically this dish is the fried greens of the plant, with garlic an chilli, and after being tossed through with cooked and drained Orichette (little 'ear shaped' pasta shapes), the dish is finished with lots of a freshly grated ewes milk cheese, called Pecorrino Romano (which tastes similar to Parmesan, but is less harsh).
Typically the plants are available as a ready-to-cook crop, from large Italian grocers, and some premium supermarkets such as Waitrose. However if you live away from a large town or city, you will find them hard to come-by, so your best bet will then be to grow them yourself from seed.
The seeds used to be almost impossible to find, but thanks to the internet are readily available. A good place to find them is from the website "Seeds of Italy", (which I will review seperately once Dooyoo add it), this website is a hidden gem for any serious cooks, and is used by lots of Celebrity Chefs, including Jamie Oliver, and James Martin.
-Growing Your Own-
If your interested in trying to grow this variety, it really is simplicity itself. The plant is very fast growing, can grow in a range of climates, and has no specific soil requirements. The plant can go from seed to larder in between 40-60 days. In fact this is how the seeds are classified, 40 day seeds, and 60 days one (referrring to 'sow-to-harvest' days).
Grown from: Feb-Apr, then again from Aug-Sep,
Harvest: 40-60 days later.
Habitat: Any open soil, very little space required, can be grown amongst other plants if short of space. Can be grown in containers but will require careful watering to avoid premature bolting (flowering, before sufficient leaf growth is established).
These are best grown as direct scatter sown crops, so after preparing the soil to a fairly fine tilth (just the surface), you just scatter the seeds liberally (they are tiny), scatter some soil over to cover, water lightly and forget about them. The only real maintenance while they are growing, is to pick out any weeds and drop the occasional slug pellet near them.
Basically these will be ready to harvest, when you see the "flower" head forming. If you can imagine what a fine stemmed "Sprouting Broccoli" would look like, that is pretty much what you are looking for, but certainly harvest them up, before they physically flower.
To harvest, you just pull them out, and you keep all the nice looking leaves, and stems, including the unopened flowering heads.
-Things to Watch-
As with all Brassica plants, the biggest threat is from slugs/snails and caterpillars. The beauty of these though, is that they are vigorous growers, so most attacks can be repelled without the need for heavy use of chemicals. The odd slug pellett is advisable though, just to make sure you have a few decent leaves at least.
-Culinary Uses and Health-
These are basically best cooked lightly or rapidly, although I have never heard of anyone eating them raw. So probably best not too!
They readily lend themselves to things like Stir-Fries, being lightly steamed, or boiled, or being added to soups and casseroles.
The taste is quite bitter an peppery, reminds me a tiny bit of water cress. So if you pair them up with a suitable companion they really are a treat.
Most definately, they are a nice welcome change from regular Turnips, and are packed with vitamins and minerals, are a good source of fibre whilst being low in carbohydrates.
They contain as a rough guide, favourable amounts of:
Vitamins A (IU and RAE),
Folates, and contain Vitamin K (especially good for youngsters)
Minerals of note include:
Manganese and Selenium.
Why not have a traditional turnip lantern at Halloween this year instead of the American pumpkin Jack O Lantern.
In Scotland, Ireland and the North of England people have been making their Halloween lanterns out of turnips (Swedes as they are known in the South) for centuries.
Halloween is all about the dead, and the origin of the turnip lantern was to represent the souls of the dead on this ghostliest of nights.
Many people in these areas have now adopted the American pumpkin Jack O Lantern, for their Halloween decoration, probably because the turnip is so difficult to carve, but you really should give it a go, and besides the carved out innards of the turnip are tasty.
Before you start you need to know the difference between a turnip and a swede. We will be using the bigger of the two here. In some parts of Britain (mainly the south of England), they call this a swede and the smaller one a turnip. the thing to remember is that of the two we are using the bigger one. So if you are in the South you will probably want to ask your greengrocer for a SWEDE.
The first thing to do is to take a slice off the top of the turnip, to make a lid and to give you access to the flesh. Next is the really hard bit. With a combination of an OLD tablespoon and an OLD sharp knife, gouge out the flesh and set aside to cook later (see my other review on cooking turnip). Don't use any of the woody outer flesh though for the cooking - discard this. Scoop out a bowl shape from the pumpkin, and leave the outer about a half to one inch thick. Next, gouge a small depression, in the base (but don't cut through the base), large enough for a candle to socket into, then with a sharp knife cut out the shapes of a face on the front, the spookier the better! When you are ready, set the lantern somewhere stable and safe, pop a little 'chimney hole' in the lid, light the candle, and drip some melted wax into the depression. Then quickly but safely socket the candle into this - the melted wax will solidify around the candle and should hold it in place, check to be sure. Pop the lid back on. You have probably worked harder to make this, than you would have done making one from a pumpkin, but I really think this traditional celtic lantern looks the part over the American one. If you are taking the pumpkin out 'guising' (trick-or-treating), you will need a handle. You will need to make two holes in the pumpkin and two holes in the lid, and string some string through these holes in such a way that the lid stays attached to the pumpkin. Please remember to arrange the string in such a way that the candle won't set it alight.
After trying this you probably won't go back to the pumpkin method - the combination of the candle and the heated turnip flesh gives off a not unpleasant aroma that will always remind you of hallowe'en.
Above all though, remember to make a delicious turnip mash out of the carved out scoops.
It is now Autumn and I am attracted by the return of the season's vegetables. Today for our dinner we had steak with mash and turnips. Turnips are a favourite vegetable of mine, they always remind of Autumn and especially Halloween, when we were children, before we had heard of Pumpkins we used to carve our scary Halloween lanterns from turnips. It was very hard work, a turnip is much harder to carve than a Pumpkin.
I grew up in a family of five children and we didn't have a lot of money but my Mother always tried to make filling meals for us, they may not always have been the healthiest but at least "they stuck to your ribs", quite a regular contributor to mealtimes was turnip. Very often we would have potatoes, boiled and perhaps mashed, bacon or sausages and turnip, the turnip was usually boiled, mashed and then fried in the bacon fat to give it flavour. My Mother also added turnip to soups and stews, not everyone in my family liked turnip but at least in soups or stews the taste was hidden, turnip is good for bulking out soups and stews.
The turnip has quite a distinct taste, hard to describe, I find it quite nutty. It is orange in colour and has a purple coloured skin. The turnip can be quite hard to peel and cut, I get my husband to do this. I usually cook mine by dicing it and then putting it in water, bring to the boil and simmer, the length of time it takes to cook depends on how you like it. My husband likes the turnip with a bite not mushy, if I am going to make the turnip into a mash I cook longer than if I am going to serve diced. I generally don't fry mine in bacon fat, my husband hates this, and usually serve it as a side vegetable with my dinners. I do use it in soups and stews. I like the taste of raw turnip, and there is no reason not to eat it raw, however it is not a vegetable I would add to salads or other non-cooked meals.
As I said earlier I had turnip today for my dinner, just diced and cooked in water, drained and served hot. I also used some of the turnip to make dinners for my baby son. For my son I made sweet potato, carrots and turnip. I boiled the sweet potatoes and carrots and then added some turnip. I mashed all three together and mixed them thoroughly, my son seemed to like it very much.
I have also used mashed turnip combined with mashed potato as a topping for cottage pie, it makes a good taste and colour.
From what I have read about turnips they are a healthy root vegetable, they are high in vitamin C and fibre. I bought my latest turnip in Asda and it cost 80 pence, it was not organic but it was locally grown.
A healthy, tasty, versatile, seasonal vegetable that I would recommend.
I have just heard on a news programme, 25.9.2008, that turnip sales have increased during the credit crunch as more and more people are trying to look for cheaper but wholesome food products.
May appear on other sites.
Gather round dooyoo children, I'm going to tell you a little story...about a turnip....called Ned. Now Ned lived in a big field in Dyfed with lots of his turnip siblings, they were happy in the sun, the occasional shower and the regular lovely heap of manure. The only bad events were plagues of flea beetles, sadly some succumbed to club rot, but geberally life was good. But there were murmurings, the older turnips talked a big shiny object from the sky, which ripped them up and they were never seen again. The younger turnips put it down to turnip senility. But then the day came, Ned was swept away, when he came to he was in a bright shiny room, surrounded by lots of other vegetables, it was not long before he was picked up and carried off again. Ned screamed as a sharp object chopped him into pieces, the last thing Ned remembered was the sting of the boiling water. Just think, you, yes you, could have beed the one who destroyed Ned :-( But there are more cheerful things baout turnips though! Turnips are members of the brassica family, which includes swedes. It is believed that the Romans introduced the turnip to the UK. Once popular all over the countr, they are now mainly grown in Lincolnshire, Devon, Norfolk, Lancashire and Dyfed. They like a soil with a ph of 6.5-7.0, so you may need to add lime. The seeds should be sown in January, then planted out under cloches in early spring, it is important to leave 18" inches between the rows to allow them to grow. They will need manure, but will be ready for cultivation in the autumn. But the poor turnips are subject to diseases like Club Root (:-~), Soft Rot, Mildew, Flea Beetles (?), and cabbage root fly, but there are pesticides available for this. The early ones can be pulled early and eaten raw, the later ones for cooking. Before I get to the recipes, there are some interesting facts about turnips. *The pumpkin lanterns at Halloweed orig
inated in the 9th century when people carved turnips to guide the souls of dead people to their former homes. *Mario on the Game Boy Advance pulls up turnips to throw at his enemies. *Ian Dury and the Blockheads once released an album called 'Ten more turnips from the tip' *Turnips are also called 'neeps' and are eaten with potatos and Haggis on Burn night in Scotland. So then to the recipes, including the famous neeps and tatties. Neeps and Tatties Take 1lb of potatoes, 1lb of turnips, 1tbs of chives, 1 tbs of dripping. Peel and cook the vegetables seperately, drain, mash together, add chives and dripping, serve hot. That is a traditional Scottish recipe, there is also a traditional Irish recipe, this is Turnips and Bacon. You take: 500g of turnips, 60g of smoked bacon, 1 big onion, parsley, salt. Wash turnips without peeling, place in cold salted water, bring to boil and simmer until tender. Drain, cool and cut into 1cm pieces. In a large pan cook bacon over very low heat. After 5-6 mins add chopped onion and cook for 10 mins. Add the turnips and sprinkle with parsley. There is also a Welsh recipe called Punchnep. Cook equal portions of turnips and potatoes seperately, mash with butter, then combine the purees. Pile this into a dish, poke holes in the puree, then fill them with double cream. And of course we have to salute Baldrick, the turnip obsessed servant of Lord Blackadder. Therefor I include one of Mrs Miggins recipes. This one is for turnip cheese. Take 1 aged turnip, 1 cows stomach and 1 cup of rat milk. Scrape mould from turnip into milk. Squeeze cows stomach over milk/mould combination. Place into a warm place for 1-2 months. The aroma should tell you when it is ripe. For more of Mrs Miggins recipes log on to www.blackadderhall.co.uk So there you go, some lovely recipes for
all you turnip lovers, remember they can also go in soups, stews casseroles, soup or on their own. Enough of turnips therefore, just watch out for the next vegetable instalment, honouring the much unadmired carrot!!