Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Veggie Ventures: Turnips

Welcome to the Veggie Ventures series, where we'll take a glimpse
at veggies my husband and I want to grow but have never really eaten!

Turnips.  Now before you go running for the hills, hear me out.  If you think you hate turnips, chances are you've never had a good one.  Believe me, I know--because I was almost turned away from this under appreciated veggie by a couple of really bad specimens!  See the big one on the left in the above picture?  Nasty.  Yuck.  Unbearably bitter and nose-burningly pungent.  Cooking could not tame it, so into the trash it went.  The three little cuties next to it though?  Tender, mild, and faintly sweet.  It turns out that when it comes to turnips (at least ones you can buy at the market), bigger is NOT always better. 

Turnip Lesson #1: Turnips are at their best when harvested young and small.

I prepared the turnips by cubing them, steaming them in a little water, and finishing them up with a bit of butter and parsley.  They kind of look like potatoes, and texture-wise they were pretty close as well.  In the taste department, there's no foolin' though.  Turnips taste like...turnips, I suppose.  But in a good way.

High off my victory in my first turnip venture, I armed myself with Turnip Lesson #1 (buy them small) and decided to seek out more specimens for kitchen experimentation.  What I came home with though, was a far cry from what I had previously experienced.  Though small, the second set of turnips I bought were just as pungent and bitter as the giant one I previously tried.  What went wrong?  Further reading led me to...

Turnip Lesson #2: Bitter increases with storage time.  Buy the freshest you can find.

The first set of small turnips came from Fresh Pickin's--so pretty much straight from the farm.  The second set?  Cello-bagged from Wal-Mart.  Age?  questionable.  Lesson learned.

Veggie Verdict:
Turnips could definitely have a place in our garden.  They're a "two-fer" veggie, because the tops as well as the bulbs are edible.  In fact, some people grow turnips specifically for the turnip greens!

Garden Update:
We planted some turnips back in October to see how they'd fare during the winter.  (Cold weather is supposed to improve their flavor).  As you can see in the picture below (taken in January), the turnips started pushing themselves out of the ground.  We don't know why this happened, but it happened to the other root veggies we were growing as well (beets & radishes).  They're supposed to grow underground!  In terms of size, we were a little disappointed in how things turned out...but this was our fault for not fertilizing the garden regularly.  Our turnips ended up being slightly bigger than golf ball size :(  They were tasty, but considering the 3 month wait we would've liked to have had a bigger harvest to show for it!

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