Turnips in their many forms are terrific table toppers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2012

Recently, a friend invited us to go and get some turnips. The hunters who had been renting his land had left for the season, and they had planted a field in turnips. Do deer eat turnips? It didn’t look like it in this huge field of turnips. The field could have fed the whole county if they could have found it. We had to use a 4-wheel drive to go the several miles back in the woods. We pulled big and little until we had filled up all our bags. I’m not a great turnip fan, but I got out all my books looking for ways to eat turnips other than just boiling and served with butter.

Turnips are seasonal now and can be gotten locally if you don’t have any in your garden. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The leaves should be trimmed from the root before storing. Young fresh turnips probably will not need to be peeled, but for the older bigger turnips, use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.

Julia Child has several recipes in her Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I. I choose this one with bacon. Everything tastes better with bacon! This dish could change your mind about turnips, because it is tasty and would go well with pork, beef, duck or turkey.

Turnip Casserole

(Navets à La Champenoise)

Serves 6-8 people

2 ½ lbs. turnips, peeled and cut into quarters (8 to 9 cups)

A ¼ -lb. chunk of bacon

A 3-quart, fireproof casserole about 2 inches deep

1 Tb. butter

2/3 cup finely diced onions

1 Tb. flour

¾ cup stock or canned beef bouillon

¼ tsp. sugar

Salt and pepper

¼ tsp. sage (You need this in the herb garden but can use dried from the grocery.)

2 Tb. minced parsley (Easy enough to grow in the herb garden but available in the grocery.)

Blanch the turnips for three to five minutes in boiling salted water to cover. Drain.

Remove the rind and cut the bacon into ¼-inch dice, making about 2/3 cup. Simmer for 10 minutes in a quart of water. Drain.

Sauté the bacon in the butter for several minutes until very lightly browned. Stir in the onions, cover and cook slowly for five minutes without browning the onions.

Blend in the flour and cook slowly for two minutes.

Off heat, blend in the stock or bouillon, seasonings to taste and the sage. Simmer for a moment, and then fold in the turnips. Cover and simmer slowly for 20 to 30 minutes or until the turnips are tender. If sauce is too liquid, uncover and boil slowly for several minutes until it has reduced and thickened. Correct seasoning. May be cooked several hours in advance and reheated later.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


Another way to treat turnips is to add Indian spices to jazz the taste up a little. This dish, which I did last week, is a winner and really good with Indian bread and rice.

From Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking

Turnips with Fresh Coriander and Mint

(Rasedar Shaljum)

Serves 6

2 lb. turnips (weight without leaves)

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 oz. fresh tomatoes, peeled; canned tomatoes can be used (which I think is best when cooking tomatoes this time of year)

1 inch cube ginger, peeled and grated to a pulp

1 tablespoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

15 oz. water

3 tablespoons very finely chopped, fresh green coriander (Mine is in the garden but it can be purchased in the grocery.)

2 tablespoons very finely chopped, fresh mint (You really should have some mint in the garden somewhere.)

1½ teaspoon salt

Peel the turnips and cut them in half, lengthwise. Put the cut ends flat against your chopping board and cut them, lengthwise, into 1/3 inch thick slices.

Put the oil in a fairly wide pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the tomatoes. Stir and fry for about two minutes. Add the ginger, ground coriander, turmeric and cayenne. Stir and fry another two minutes or until sauce is thick and paste-like. Add the turnips, water, fresh coriander, mint and salt. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, and cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Stir a few times as the turnips cook. Now cover the pan tightly and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes or until the turnips are tender. You should have a little thick sauce left in the bottom of your pan, which can be served spooned over the turnips.

If you don’t have sage, parsley, mint and fresh coriander in the garden, now is a good time to go buy some. Use some of the leaves and then put the plants in the garden. Parsley is a biennial, coriander an annual. Sage and mint are perennial, but be careful with the mint. It spreads easily but is not a bad thing to have spread.