09 March, 2009


Purple-top turnips are an enigma to me. My local produce store nearly always has a basket of them for sale by the potatoes, and they always look so good - firm and hard and cool, with their awesome two-tone color scheme and just a hint of soil clinging to them to remind you that they were recently plucked from the earth. And, at least once a month, I succumb to their siren song and bring two or three plump blushing roots home from the store, and that is when the disappointment inevitably starts. Because despite how appealing turnips are to my eyes and my touch, I find that I'm just not all that fond of them as a food, and I'm not at all certain of what to do about it.

I like raw turnip. It's cool and wet and crunchy and has a pleasant bite reminiscent of a mild radish that takes the edge off of it's seemingly limitless capacity for inspiring boredom. Sliver a raw turnip and a comparably-sized chunk of raw carrot into matchsticks and sprinkle them into a salad and you add a marvelous crunchiness with just a subtle hint of flavor. I also like to put thinly-sliced raw turnips out on a relish plate, along side the pickles and stuffed celery.

But what do I do with it cooked? I admit I cube turnips and add them to vegetable soup, but that's mostly because of nostalgia - that's way my mom always made her vegetable soup, and at least they're tolerable when they're hidden in with all the other veggies in the broth. My wife likes mashed turnips, but I hate the texture and the flavor. And don't ever make the mistake of trying to cook French-fried turnips. They look fantastic (all golden-brown with toasty edges) - and they taste wonderful (sweet and savory and earthy all at once, like a fried potato only better somehow) but deep-fried turnips are horrid, wet, sticky fingers of mush.

I guess I'll keep trying, though. There's bound to be a recipe or two out there that I'll like. And in the meantime, I can still slice them up raw and eat them in salad.


Stephanie/Sproffee said...

Hey, don't sweat the turnips. 90% of all turnips are just pulled out of someone's ass anyway. Hehe!

Oh wait...that probably makes them worse, huh?

auntjone said...

I'd never had a turnip until I remarried. I love them raw but didn't care for them cooked. I think I might have overcooked them, but still. Would they work in a gratin with other root vegetables?

Unknown said...

Let me get this straight: they look wonderful, they taste wonderful, but their mushiness is enough to earn them the appellation of horrid. I'd say try to dry them partially first and then try again.

I'll admit that when I made fried turnips, they were sort of chewy no matter how long or at what temperature they were cooked. That was in approximately 1978, though, and I haven't tried since.

P.S. Turnips work okay with other root vegetables, though why gratin them at all is another question.


Dave said...

Yes. Wet, sticky, oily mushy turnip strips are horrid, no matter how appetizing they look or good they taste.

Going to all the work involved in drying them out so I could do more work in frying them seems like one of those "diminishing returns" things.

Unknown said...

I like to mix in about 1/3 turnips to 2/3 potatoes in "mash potatoes" and think its fantastic. My mother prefers to substitute rutabagas for turnips as they are not quite as bitter. Either way, add some salt and butter at the end and dee-licious!!!