Turnip or Rutabaga?
It’s a Canadian thing. The vegetable that I grew up calling turnip is actually a rutabaga. This homely vegetable is thought to be a cross between a wild cabbage and a white turnip. Rutabaga is also known as swede, yellow turnip, or winter turnip. It is larger than a white turnip, and therefore easier to peel. It is good for long storage too, whereas your white turnips may not have the same staying power.
Both the white turnip and the yellow turnip belong to the brassica family, whose members are high in vitamins A, C and K, folic acid, and fiber. They also contain a surprising amount of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and glucosinolate. You may know the brassicas as cruciferous vegetables, a name derived from the distinctive cross shape of their flowers.
How to Cook Turnips
Most folks are a bit hesitant to cook turnips because – well, they’ve never cooked with turnip! Some people do boil and mash them, but since many people find the taste sharp by itself it’s good to know a few other ways to introduce turnip into your diet.
- Eat turnip raw: Just cut it into small pieces and enjoy as is. Believe me, it’s good! Or you can try cutting it into julienne strips or shredding it to make a turnip slaw. This is one dish I’m looking forward to trying next time, as I love both coleslaw and broccoli slaw!
- Boil turnip: Cook up a batch of turnips and simply mash them with a little butter and salt. It’s heavenly, especially when made with the pretty yellow flesh of a rutabaga! You can also mash turnip with other root vegetables.
My mother-in-law used to make Scottish “tatties and neeps” in order to sneak the turnip into my husband’s diet when he was little. There is also rotmos, a Swedish puree traditionally made from turnip, carrot and potato. I like to leave out the potato, and just blend equal proportions of the carrot and turnip. It’s so sweet and delicious!
Other good matches for boiled turnip would be sweet potato, or even a little baked acorn or butternut squash. Flavour your mash with freshly grated ginger, some cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice, a little paprika or some thyme. Turnip goes well with chives, onion, or garlic too.
You don’t even have to mash the turnip after boiling it. Instead, try cutting it into julienne strips before cooking, and just serve your turnip julienne with a little butter or a honey-lemon glaze.
- Add turnip to soups and stews: I’ve always loved a good beef stew with turnip in it. But you can toss a bit of turnip into just about any soup or stew to boost its nutritional content, and bring a little zip to the flavour. Not too made about soup? Try cooking up this Indian turnip curry, or Shalgam Masala.
- Bake or roast turnips: Cooking turnips in the oven is a snap. Just brush with a little olive oil and sea salt, and roast for about 30 minutes at 400ºF. You can also just slice a winter turnip into 1/2” pieces and tuck them under a chicken or turkey before cooking.
If you want to add turnip to a casserole with other foods, steam or boil it briefly first and then pat dry. This allows you to add turnips to recipes the otherwise wouldn’t give it the chance to cook all the way through. Roast turnip with other root vegetables like carrots or parsnips, or bake it with slices of butternut squash. If you like cheese, try sprinkling with a little Parmesan before serving.
- Make turnip noodles: If this idea sounds crazy to you, maybe you haven’t heard of spiralizing. Essentially, this cool new trend involves using a special spiral vegetable cutting gadget that slices your veggies into long thin ribbons – just like pasta noodles! The “noodles” are served with your favourite sauces instead of the less healthy, high carb pasta that puts a spare tire around our middles. Serving spiralized turnip is a great way to include this nutritious veggie in your diet. Eat them raw or cooked!
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