Turnips 101 – The Basics

Turnips 101 – The Basics

About Turnips
Turnips are round root vegetables often associated with potatoes or beets. However, they are in the Brassicaceae (mustard) family of plants, cousins with kale, broccoli, cabbage, collards, rutabagas, and many more popular cruciferous vegetables. There are over 30 varieties of turnips, differing in size, color, flavor, and usage. The purple-top turnips are the most common variety.

Both the bulbous taproot and the leafy greens are edible. Turnips have been eaten for thousands of years. They appear to be native to Siberia, where they originally took a lot of space to grow. Since World War II, different turnip varieties that need less space to grow have been developed. This has led to greater production around the world with increased consumer acceptance. Currently, turnips grow from Siberia to the northern United States.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Turnips are an excellent source of Vitamin C, with a 1 cup serving providing 30 percent of the daily recommended intake. They are also a good source of copper, and also contain lesser amounts of fiber, manganese, Vitamin B6, potassium, pantothenic acid, folate, Vitamin B1, choline, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B2, niacin, magnesium, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, iron and selenium. One cup of cubed turnip has only 36 calories.

With their wide array of nutrients, including a variety of antioxidants, researchers have found that turnips offer a variety health benefits, including:

Relieving Intestinal Issues. Fiber is important for moving the contents of the intestinal tract forward, reducing pressure and inflammation in the colon. This reduces the risk of developing diverticulitis and other gastrointestinal tract issues.

Lowering Blood Pressure. In a study reported in a 2013 issue of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers found that foods such as turnips and collard greens, may reduce blood pressure and inhibit platelet stickiness. Compounds within such vegetables can be converted into nitric oxide that helps blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure under control helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Reducing Cancer Risk. A high intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as turnips, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage, has been associated with a lower risk of cancer. Such vegetables contain compounds that have been shown to have protective effects against cancer. Sulforaphane, a compound famed for being abundant in broccoli sprouts is one of those compounds. However, broccoli sprouts are not alone in being high in sulforaphane. In fact, all cruciferous vegetables, including turnips, are high in sulforaphane. So, be sure to include other cruciferous vegetables (besides broccoli sprouts) in your diet to get your fair share of sulforaphane.

Aiding Weight Loss and Digestion. Turnips and other cruciferous vegetables that are high in fiber help to make you feel full for a longer period of time, and helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Adequate fiber also helps to promote regular bowel movements, removing toxins from the body and helping us to feel more comfortable. Also, turnips are low in calories. All factors combined help to improve digestion and ward off hunger.

How to Select Turnips
When buying turnips, look for brightly colored ones with creamy-looking bulbs. Mature turnips may have a purple-hued ring around the top, whereas baby turnips will look more like large, white radishes. Choose ones that are firm, feel heavy for their size, and are without blemishes. Avoid any with signs of rot. In the fall and spring, you may find turnips with their greens still attached. During winter months, turnips will have been stored, so their leaves will have been removed.

Turnips are available year-round, but are at their best in the fall, when the mature vegetables are fresh. They are also good in the spring, when they are still small and sweet. Larger, older turnips have tough skin, which can have a bitter aftertaste if not peeled away. Older, larger turnips have a stronger flavor than the younger, more tender ones. However, the larger turnips are great for mashing or adding to soups and stews.

How to Store Turnips
If you buy turnips with the greens still attached, remove the greens when you get them home. The greens should be wrapped in a clean cloth or paper towel and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should be used as soon as possible.

The turnip roots should be loosely wrapped in a container or plastic bag and placed in the refrigerator. Try to use them within a week.

If you have a root cellar, they may be stored loosely there. Any very cool, dry place will be suitable. When stored properly, they may keep for months, if freshly harvested shortly before being purchased.

How to Prepare Turnips
Turnips may be eaten raw, but are more often served cooked. They can be cooked in a variety of ways. First, cut away any attached greens and trim off any remaining roots. Rinse them well and peel, if the skin is thick and tough. Peeling small turnips with more tender skins is optional. Cut them as needed for your recipe (left whole, cut into large chunks, diced, or sliced into sticks).

Smaller turnips may be eaten raw and diced or shredded into salads or slaws, or sliced and added to an appetizer tray and served with a dip.

Turnips may be roasted, which mellows and sweetens their flavor. They may also be mashed, baked, added to soups or stews, or cut into sticks and baked as fries. The greens may be prepared as you would any deep, leafy greens.

How to Preserve Turnips
Freezing Turnips. Select small to medium, firm turnips that are tender. Wash, peel, and cut into ½-inch cubes. Bring a large pot of water to boil and place the prepared turnip cubes in the water. Set the timer for 2 minutes. When the timer is finished, immediately transfer the turnip cubes to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to cool for about 2 minutes, then drain well. Pack the blanched cubes in freezer bags or containers and freeze. Alternatively, if you want to freeze them so they don’t become one frozen clump of turnip cubes, spread the blanched, cooled, and drained turnip cubes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread them into a single layer, if possible. Place the baking sheet in the freezer long enough for the cubes to freeze. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container. Label it with the date and return them to the freezer. Use them within 1 year.

Dehydrating Turnips. To dehydrate turnips, wash, peel, then cut the turnips into ¼-inch thick slices. Bring a large pot of water to boil, then place the prepared turnip slices in the boiling water. Set a timer for 3 minutes. When the timer is finished, immediately transfer the turnip slices to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to cool for about 3 minutes, then drain well. Arrange the prepared turnip slices in a single layer on a mesh dehydrator tray. Try to leave about ½-inch of space on all sides between slices. Place the trays in the dehydrator and turn it on with the temperature set at 150 F/65 C and allow them to dry for one hour. Then reduce the temperature to 135 F/57 C and allow them to dry for another 3 hours, or until they are crisp and dry. Remove the trays from the dehydrator and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes. They should crisp up further during this cooling process. (If they are not crisp after being cooled, they are not completely dry. Return them to the dehydrator to finish drying.) Transfer your dried turnip chips to clean, dry containers. To help preserve them, it is helpful to place an oxygen absorber inside the container. Label them with the date they were dried and store them in a cool, dry place. They will keep indefinitely, but for best quality, use them within one year.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Turnips
* Raw turnips can be a good addition to a green salad and/or slaw. Treat them like you would a radish.

* Try using turnips in place of potatoes for a low-starch alternative to French fries and other potato dishes.

* Roast turnips with other root vegetables like sweet potatoes as a flavorful side dish.

* Try raw turnip sticks for dipping on an appetizer tray.

* Add turnips to your favorite soups or stews.

* It is not mandatory to peel turnips, but the larger ones will have a thick, tough skin, sometimes with a bitter aftertaste. So, it is often recommended to peel the larger ones.

* One pound of turnips = 3 to 4 medium turnips = 2-1/2 cups chopped and cooked.

* Although the flavors may be somewhat different, if a recipe calls for turnips and you don’t have any available, you could substitute rutabaga, kohlrabi, parsnips, or broccoli stems in place of the turnips.

* Turnips may be eaten raw, steamed, roasted or boiled. They are best when not overcooked.

* When buying turnips, choose smaller ones if you prefer a sweeter, milder flavor. The larger turnips will have a spicier flavor and their texture will be woodier and the peel will be tough.

* Roasting turnips brings out their sweeter flavors. Try adding the herb thyme for a good flavor combo.

* Try boiled and mashed turnips for an alternative to mashed potatoes.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Turnips
Allspice, anise seeds, basil, bay leaf, caraway seeds, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, cinnamon, curry powder, dill, lemon thyme, mustard powder, nutmeg, parsley, pepper, rosemary, salt, savory, star anise, tarragon, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Turnips
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beef, chickpeas, eggs, lentils, peas, pecans, pine nuts, poppy seeds, pork, poultry, salmon (and other seafood), sesame seeds, tofu, walnuts

Vegetables: Beets, broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, carrots, celery, celery root, chives, garlic, ginger, greens (turnip), kale, kohlrabi, leeks, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, root vegetables (in general), rutabagas, squash (winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watercress

Fruits: Apples, apple cider, apricots (dried), citrus (zest), lemon (juice, zest), orange (juice, zest), pears, pumpkin

Grains and Grain Products: Bread, bread crumbs, couscous, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese (i.e., blue, cheddar, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Gruyère, Parmesan), cream, ghee, mascarpone, yogurt

Other Foods: Honey, maple syrup, miso, mustard (prepared), oil (i.e., grapeseed, nut, olive, sunflower, walnut), soy sauce, stock, sugar, vinegar (esp. balsamic, red wine, rice, sherry, white wine), wine (red, sherry)

Turnips have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
French cuisine, gratins, mashed (like potatoes), purees, salads, soups (i.e., creamy, minestrone, potato, turnip), stews, stir-fries, vinaigrette

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Turnips
Add turnips to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Balsamic Vinegar
Basil + Black Pepper + Lemon
Caraway Seeds + Carrots
Carrots + Greens
Carrots + Lentils
Carrots + Potatoes
Garlic + Leeks + Rutabagas + Thyme
Ginger + Orange + Rosemary
Greens + Lemon + Pine Nuts
Leeks + Miso
Maple Syrup + Parsley
Pasta + Turnip Greens
Potatoes + Rutabagas
Potatoes + Tarragon + Tomatoes

Recipe Links
Easy, Delicious Mashed Turnips https://www.thespruceeats.com/easy-delicious-mashed-turnips-2217302

Roasted Turnips https://www.thespruceeats.com/roasted-turnips-2217054

Creamy Turnip Soup https://www.thespruceeats.com/creamy-turnip-soup-recipe-2217429

25+ Turnip Recipes That Prove Just How Delicious the Veggies Can Be https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g4640/turnip-recipes/

Raw Turnip Salad https://www.mariaushakova.com/2015/03/raw-turnip-salad-recipe/

Root Vegetable Hash Egg Skillet https://naturallyella.com/root-vegetable-hash-egg-skillet/

Roasted Potato and Turnip Mash https://fashionablefoods.com/2015/12/14/roasted-potato-and-turnip-mash/

Herb Roasted Sweet Potato and Turnip Skillet https://www.jessiskitchen.com/herb-roasted-sweet-potato-and-turnip-skillet/#tasty-recipes-9679-jump-target

12 Turnip Recipes for Main and Side Dishes https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/turnip-18-recipes-underrated-root-vegetable

Crunchy Turnip, Apple, and Brussels Sprouts Slaw https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/crunchy-turnip-apple-and-brussels-sprout-slaw

Simple Roasted Turnips https://www.spendwithpennies.com/simple-roasted-turnips/











Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. Third edition, Bulletin 989. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

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