Ingredient of the Week: Turnip

Ingredient of the Week: Turnip

Turnip is another vegetable that my Dad successfully grew this year in his allotment, which meant as usual when this happens, that I had to come up with new recipes to use them up. As a child, because my name was Turnham, I was sometimes called turnip or turnip top, which I hated, but fortunately this didn’t effect my enjoyment of this vegetable. My Mum often serves turnip mashed with carrot as part of our sunday roast dinner, but there is so much more you can do with this root vegetable.

Turnip is very similar to swede and comes from the same family of vegetables. It is a cruciferous vegetable, the same as cabbage, kale and sprouts. Creamy white in colour, they have a purple, red or greenish hue, where the exposed part of the root has come in contact with sunlight. Like beetroot, the most commonly eaten part is the root, but you can also eat the leaves. I’ve only ever knowingly eaten the root, but the leaves can be steamed, boiled or stir-fried and even shredded raw in to a salad. Turnip root has a similar texture to carrot or swede, but has a slightly more peppery taste. Younger, baby turnips have a sweeter, more delicate taste and are much smaller. Before potatoes were introduced in to the English diet, turnip was one of the main sources of sustenance for the poor.    

Why are they good for me?

Like all other cruciferous vegetables, turnips are low in calories but high in many important vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamin C. It is very important, especially in winter, to make sure you get plenty of vitamin C in your diet as it helps to fight off infections, in particular cold and flu bacteria. Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant, fighting against free radicals produced by oxidative damage as a result of daily living and can cause cancer if not removed from the body. 

The leaves of turnips, or turnip greens, also contain good levels of vitamin K, folate and a precursor to vitamin A. Unfortunately though, it is much harder to source these in supermarkets for some reason and so more difficult to include in your diet.

Apart from their high vitamin C levels, turnips also contain a good range of antioxidant plant compounds, further adding to their immune boosting and cancer fighting properties. These same plant compounds also have anti-inflammatory effects, which make them useful for people who have long term muscle or joint problems such as arthritis.

How do I prepare them?

If I am lucky enough to have got my hands on baby turnips, which are only really available in June or July, then all I need to do is rinse them and slice off the base. The larger, more mature turnips that are available practically all year round need to be peeled first before cutting to size. You can easily remove the skin using a potato peeler.

How do I cook them?

Turnip can be boiled, steamed, fried, baked or roasted. They handle very similarly to other root vegetables like carrots, swede, parsnip and sweet potato. They can be mashed like potato and as such can be used as a low carbohydrate substitute for them, an example of this is in my cottage pie with root vegetable mash topping, and also be spirralised to form a vegetable version of noodles or spaghetti. 

They really suit typically British comfort food meals made in winter, such as this slow-cooked chicken and sausage stew. You could also swap them for swede in this sausage stovies or bacon and root vegetable broth. You might not think of it, but most root vegetables like turnip work really well in a curry, so give them a try by again swapping them for the swede in this chicken and root vegetable dahl.

This stir-fried turnip, cabbage and mushroom recipe is a great way of doing something slightly different with turnip, which again shows how well turnip suits spicy flavours. If spice isn’t your thing then a really simple and fun suggestion for them is to slice them in to chips and make a healthier version of sausage and chips. I must admit, I would never choose to eat turnip on its own, but when they are mixed through with other flavours, I do enjoy them.

I hope this article has inspired you to try cooking with turnip and given you some ideas on what to make. I would really love to hear how you get on and whether you have any tasty suggestions yourself. Please leave any comments in the box below.

Thank you for reading and speak soon.


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