Turnips are small, creamy white root vegetables, tinged purple or green at the crown. They have firm, pungent, yet slightly sweet flesh that is generally cooked by boiling, braising, or stewing. Choose smaller turnips that feel heavy for their size and are firm to the touch.
This root vegetable has been found all over Europe and Asia for centuries. A turnip looks larger than a radish and is a well known food source for both the root and greens. Turnips come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Not only is this root vegetable easy to grow, but it keeps well, too. Because of this, turnips have long been popular in Great Britain and northern Europe. The white-fleshed turnip has a white skin with a purple-tinged top. The so-called yellow turnip is actually a turnip relative, the Rutabaga. Small, young turnips have a delicate, slightly sweet taste. As they age, however, their taste becomes stronger and their texture coarser, sometimes almost woody. Fresh turnips are available year-round, with the peak season from October through February. Choose heavy-for-their-size small turnips, as they are the youngsters and will be more delicately flavored and textured. The roots should be firm and the greens (if attached) bright-colored and fresh looking. Though turnips can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for 2 weeks, they do best in a cool (55 degrees F), well-ventilated area such as a root cellar. Before using, they should be washed, trimmed and peeled. Turnips may be boiled or steamed, then mashed or pureed. They can also be stir-fried, cubed and tossed with butter, or used raw in salads.
Availability, Selection, Storage, and Preparation
Turnips are available year round with a peak in the fall and winter months. Select smooth surfaced roots that are firm and heavy with some root hairs at the bottom. In general, the smaller the turnip, the sweeter the taste. Turnips keep well; cut the greens and bag them separately from the root placing them in the crisper section of the refrigerator for up to a week. Turnips can be peeled before cooking, eaten raw, or sliced, diced, or julienned. When cooking this delicate root, cook only to the just tender point; avoid overcooking as sweetness will diminish.
- Vegetable of the Month: Root Vegetables by the US Centers for Disease Control, public domain government resource—original source of article