Some of our very best friends this time of year are neighbors who have gardens. About once a week, I’ll get a text messages from Ginny and Bob who live across the street.
“Would you like some vegetables?”
Uh, yes, please!
Last week I brought home fresh zucchini, one big enough to stuff. Yum. And turnips.
“Let me know how you like the taste of these,” Ginny asks. “I want to know if this is a good variety.”
Honestly, turnips are not on my usual shopping list. I like them, although the only way we had them when I was kid was boiled, sliced and mixed with cheese.
Turnips are root vegetables. That means they grow under the ground like beets and carrots. In fact, the part of these vegetables we eat is actually the well-developed root that stores energy for the plant. As they grow, the top part of these mostly white vegetables turns purple or red as it begins to protrude above the ground and meets the sun. Turnip leaves or “greens” are also edible and highly nutritious.
Turnips and their green leafy tops are nutrition superstars for several reasons. Low in calories (35 per cup for turnips; 18 per cup for greens) and a good source of dietary fiber, turnips and their greens are also a good source of vitamin C and a host of other essential vitamins and minerals.
Turnips belong to the family of Cruciferous vegetables along with the likes of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. This class of vegetables has been studied extensively for their role in the prevention of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
So … how do they taste? I’d describe turnips as a cross between a radish and a potato. Cooking mellows their flavor. And plant experts say small to medium turnips are the best for eating raw.
Unlike potatoes, though, fresh turnips do best stored in the refrigerator. Use them within a few days. (They tend to get bitter if they hang out too long before being used.)
How to use these highly good for you vegetables? Use them as you would potatoes, say experts at fruitandveggies.org: bake, boil, roast or mash them. Grate them raw in place of cabbage in coleslaw. Add them to salads or serve sliced or julienned with your favorite dip.
Use turnip greens as you would spinach or collard greens. Add them to soups, stews or pasta for a turbo boost of nutrition. Roast them in a hot oven with other vegetables. Or saute’ in olive oil, garlic, onion and lemon. Yes!
As soon as they are ready, Ginny and Bob will have beets and green beans to share. Gotta love these neighbors.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to email@example.com.