One of the oldest cultivated vegetables in agricultural history, this humble root vegetable is the original superfood. Once a standby of gardens (and kitchens) around the world, the turnip is regaining popularity among today’s generation of farmers thanks to its easy method of growing, long storage life, and adaptability to any dish.
Scientific texts from ancient Greece to Civil War-era America celebrate the turnip for its versatile use. It was known in ancient Europe as the vegetable of nobility; some royal families even featured the turnip in their coat of arms. Japanese turnips are a newer heirloom, first cultivated about 1,200 years ago and introduced to American kitchens in the 1950s.
The turnip offers a motherlode of nutritional benefits, including essential B vitamins, folate, trace minerals, and even protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Many cultures use turnips as a cure for winter colds, thanks to its extremely high concentration of Vitamin C.
Snip off leaves about ¼ inch from the top of the turnip, clean off any soil, wrap in a cloth or paper towel, and store in an unsealed bag or container in refrigerator crisper for up to 2 weeks.
Turnips require almost no preparation before cooking. They can go directly into most recipes unpeeled, with the ends of the greens still attached. Japanese turnips are particularly versatile, with a mild, sweet flavor and yielding texture that lends itself to everything from roasting to pickling to serving raw.
Wash and thoroughly dry turnips, then slice in half lengthwise, and toss in a mixture of olive oil and white miso paste. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until skin is golden brown. Remove from oven, add a pinch of black pepper and salt to taste, and serve warm.
The turnip root is only half the equation—turnip greens are just as nutritious, and delicious too! Sauté young turnip leaves with other greens, or add into soups or vegetable stock for a spike of extra vitamins and minerals.