At planting time this spring, I devoted one plot in the vegetable garden to root vegetables. A few members of the family eat beets, but no one is keen on turnips and parsnips, so I planted just a few for my own use.
One half of the space was seeded with with Detroit Red beets, and a quarter each in parsnips and turnips. Huh! I now have about 20 or so beets, a few shy parsnips peeking through the weeds, and hundreds and hundreds of turnips.
I can hardly believe all those turnips came out of one seed packet. Beware of Purple Top White Globe; they have some magical quality that multiplies and spreads them beyond belief.
I know I should get into the bed and thin out these vigorous veggies, but probably I will let them fight it out between themselves. I do enjoy turnips in a few recipes, and this summer I think I will have to experiment with freezing them for winter use.
Turnips have been around since prehistoric times in Asia and around the shores of the Mediterranean. They are fast growing - obviously! - and can be planted in ground that is still cold in very early spring.
Left alone in hot weather, they soon grow woody, pithy and bitter, so I am going to have to harvest my crop and deal with them.
In addition to the tasty roots, the leaves contain a lot of vitamin A and can be cooked like spinach or chard. But that is if the plants are well cared for, weeded and kept free of insects. Let's just say, mine do not qualify.
There is an old saying "25th day of July sow your turnips wet or dry," so evidently a fall crop is possible. I will not be sowing.
If you enjoy that distinctive turnip flavor, and I do, the best way to cook them is to peel and cube or slice the roots, cook them until tender and then simply mash them with butter, salt and pepper. Some people add herbs to season, such as oregano, allspice or curry powder, but that disguises the taste, and turnips have plenty of that.
The French way of cooking turnips is to peel and quarter them, then cook in boiling water for a few minutes. Then, fry a quarter-pound of salt pork or thick-cut bacon with diced onion, blend in about a tablespoon of flour and add less than a cup of beef bouillon, a teaspoon of sugar and salt and pepper. Cook this mixture for a couple of minutes and then add the cooked turnips, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
I am going to serve this at Sunday dinner one day without telling anyone what it is.
A pan of roasted vegetables is always good, and is one of those recipes that uses up whatever is lurking in the crisper drawer. I like to use potatoes, carrots, onion, parsnips and turnips cut in large chunks, add celery, peppers, some minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. I roast this until browned and tender. It is a good winter dish with a roast.
And then there is vegetable soup or stew. Which it is called in my kitchen depends on the amount of liquid left in the pan, to be thickened with corn starch for stew or left as is for soup. I make this after cleaning out the freezer, with a soup bone and the assortment of partial bags of vegetables left in the back. Sometimes there is a small amount of stew beef, steak or ground beef needing to be used as well. Rather casual cooking.
Now, I have procrastinated long enough, and I must go out and wage war on that unruly turnip bed.