Turnips – even the name is a bit of a turn-off. So why would anyone want to grow them, right? Well, as it turns (ha!) out I have FOUR reasons why you should. And as a bonus a lovely recipe for you to try…
Turnips are one of those vegetables that are well known in one European country and hardly ever found in another – even if it happens to be next door. Here in Belgium they’re always in the vegetable section at the supermarket but in The Netherlands I never saw them and in the UK I hear they are mostly grown to feed the pigs. However, turnips, a bit like Chard, are a typical GYO vegetable.
1. Turnips are from the brassica family and have a lovely peppery taste. As with Kohlrabi, both the leaves and the root are edible so nothing is wasted or even goes in the compost bin. The leaves are magnificent steamed with chillies and soya sauce.
2. Turnips are extremely easy to grow. Honestly! Although you might have to try out a few varieties to see which one best suits your soil and growing conditions. I immediately hit the jackpot with the Purple Top Milan variety which seems to be one of the best varieties to grow in Europe’s temperate climate.
3. You can do successional sowing from March until well into September. Early sowings might suffer from bolting but since I am growing mine in the polytunnel I have had no bolting at all with above mentioned variety. Just make sure you water them well during dry spells. When you continue sowing into Augusts and September there is no need to thin them out so you can use the leaves as cut and come again in early spring. That way you can enjoy eating turnips from early spring until winter.
4. Turnips are extremely versatile to use in the kitchen. In Switzerland and France they are eaten for example sautéed or braised and in Italy they are used in risottos. They are wonderful in combination with potatoes and a creamy sauce and they are delicious when roasted, which is what we did…
Turnips with herby oil and feta
This is what you need:
8 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves
a bunch of dill, parsley and chives
3 tbsp dried tarragon
1 lemon (scrubbed clean)
This is how you do it:
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Meanwhile clean the turnips and cut away the leaves and roots. Cut the turnips in half and slice the half into 2 cm slices. Place in an oven dish and sprinkle some olive oil on top. Add the un-peeled garlic cloves to the dish and add some salt and pepper. Mix it all together and bake the turnips in the oven for 45 minutes. Stir half way.
Put to one side two sprigs of dill and finely chop the rest with the parsley and chives. Place in a bowl together with the tarragon and the rest of the oil. Grate the zest from the lemon and squeeze out the juice. Add half of the lemon zest and 2 tbsp lemon juice to the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Peel the garlic cloves and add them together with the turnips to the herby oil. Mix well and place the mixture in a dish. Garnish with feta and the rest of the dill and lemon zest.