Season for Turnips October - March
Turnips and rutabagas are commonly confused because they look semi-similar and and because Rutabagas were once called Swedish turnips. But in fact they differ in every conceivable way. The turnip has a smooth surface, white flesh, tasty green tops and are small (about the size of a small apple) when compared to rutabagas which are rough and large and have a much stronger flavor. Turnips have round white bulbs, except for the upper portion that grows above ground (called the taproot) which generally turns a brilliant shade of magenta. Both its leaves and root have a pungent flavor similar to raw cabbage or radishes that is tamed upon cooking.
How to Buy and Store Turnips
When choosing your turnips, look for greens that are crisp and deep green in color with bulbs that have smooth and firm skin. A sweet aroma is also a good sign. Turnips on the smaller side tend to be more sweet and tender and can be eaten raw, but larger ones can have a tough woody texture. Store your root and greens in separate bags in your refrigerator where the greens will keep fresh for about 4 days. The bulbs will last for two weeks, but once cooked, they don't make for great leftovers.
How to Cook Turnips
Turnip tops are very nutritious greens and can be eaten in the same way as kale and collards. After rinsing the greens under cold water and slicing them uniformly for quick and even cooking, sprinkle with a bit of lemon juice and let them sit for a minimum of 5 minutes to release all their health benefits. Then a healthy steam or sauté in vegetable broth will do the trick.
When prepared correctly, the turnip bulb can be delicious too. Be sure not overcook and diminish its natural crunch and texture. Turnips can be sliced, diced, chopped or left whole depending on their size, and cooked in a myriad of ways. They can also be grated to be used in salads or coleslaws. It isn't necessary to peel them unless you really want to; a nice little scrub will do. Then they can be roasted, boiled, sautéed or steamed. A good secret to banish the bitterness of this veggie is to place a potato alongside your turnips while they're boiling.
Health Benefits of Turnips
What's great about turnips is that they are a starchy vegetable but provide only one third the amount of calories as an equal amount of potatoes - making for a great diet alternative. Turnips provide an excellent source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent asthma symptoms, forms of cancer, skin problem and eye disorders, as well as insoluble fiber that can protect against atherosclerosis. Turnip greens are even more nutritious than the root, rich in beta-carotene that can relieve rheumatoid arthritis and other degenerative diseases among other health benefits. They're also chock full of vitamins A, B6, C, E, folic acid, calcium, copper, fiber and manganese.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Turnips
Like most leafy greens, turnip greens will cling to both dirt and pesticides, and while a good wash will get all the dirt off, it's not so fool proof when it comes to chemicals. The bulbous root imbibes a lot of nutrients from the elements, but it also takes in the toxins that can be distributed internally to all parts of the plant. Purchasing or growing your turnips organically is the only way to ensure you're ingesting pure goodness. Plus, it sends the message you support sustainable practices in the farming of our food.