Turnip or Rutabaga?
It must be 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 fibre. 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! Rutabaga is sweeter than you would expect, and it has a little bit of tang that is an interesting departure from other raw vegetables like carrot sticks.
You can also get a variety of turnip that is exceedingly tender and meant to be eaten raw. They are smooth, round, and white; they look a little like a button mushroom. Look for them at your farmers market or grocer’s produce section under the name “salad turnips.” They are also sometimes known as Hakurei or Tokyo turnips, and are a Japanese variety that mature early in the summer, like radishes. Slice them thinly and add to any green salad. They are really yummy with a balsamic vinaigrette!
If you can’t find salad turnips, try turning raw rutabaga or white turnips into turnip slaw. Shred the roots or cut them into julienne strips. If the taste is a bit odd at first, you can take a small amount and mix it in with your favourite coleslaw or broccoli slaw recipe. Or just add some shredded turnip to any green salad.
Recent nutrition studies favour eating our vegetables raw instead of cooked, so anytime you can eat turnips raw, don’t pass up the chance!
- 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. If you like cream soups or chowders, add a bit of turnip to your favourite recipe and blend it until smooth. This is a great way to introduce turnips if you or your kids find the taste too strong. Increase the amount of turnip each time you make the soup, to help your taste buds adjust to the flavour.
- 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.
Want to make healthy turnip fries? No problem! Cut your turnips into thick slices and boil them a bit to soften them up. Then coat them in oil and lay them on a sheet pan. Bake them at 425°F for about 20 minutes, or until crisp. Check out the video below if you want a fancier recipe for your turnip fries.
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!
Did you find this post informative? If so, I hope you’ll share it with others who will be interested in learning more about turnips! Share this post by using the social media sharing buttons at left, or feel free to use the image below to pin it on Pinterest.
Original content © 2016-2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
Last updated 04/09/2017
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