‘Turnip’ the New Year with Familial Roots
Root vegetables are noteworthy and deserve a second look to complete the list of best winter vegetables I started in late 2022. The versatility of turnips and rutabagas is something to explore as we start a new year.
Like other root vegetables, turnip and rutabagas grow mainly underground and show a bit of “shoulder” above ground as they mature. Turnips are globe-shaped and rutabagas are slightly elongated. Turnips are harvested at the tennis ball or smaller size before they become woody, while rutabagas hold their firmness and can be left to grow up to 5” in diameter.
Most turnips are white-fleshed with a covering of thin pale yellow or white skin and a purple tinged ring around the top. You may also find some delightful Scarlet Queen turnips to slice into salads or tender Baby Bunch turnips with a nice radish-like flavor. Both the skin and flesh of the rutabaga are yellowish in color and show varying amounts of a burgundy on the crown.
Turnips and rutabagas are related, although rutabagas are actually the result of a cross between turnips and cabbages. Turnips definitely deliver a little bit of peppery sharpness in their taste profile while rutabagas are slightly bitter but become sweeter when cooked.
I find fresh turnip and rutabaga interchangeable in my recipes. Turnips remain white when cooked while rutabaga show off a gold color, but both are perfect candidates for baking, roasting, stir frying, mashing and boiling.
One of my favorite side dishes is a combination of mashed potato and rutabaga. Cook in separate saucepans since rutabagas take a little longer. Cook 2 pounds of each vegetable (peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces) in boiling, salted water before draining, mashing and combining with 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/3 cup milk, pepper to taste and a ¼ teaspoon nutmeg.
Fresh turnip or rutabaga greens are edible when harvested at the young and tender stage. Rutabaga leaves are mustard-tasting, while turnip greens are more peppery. The leaves are good for salads or for sauteing and perfect in soups or stews to add texture and taste.
Rutabagas are better “keepers” than turnips because of their denser flesh and lower water content. Remove any greens and store separately before storing the unwashed roots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Turnips store for two weeks; rutabagas for three.
The Orinda Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. For more information, visit www.cccfm.org, Instagram @OrindaFarmersMarket, facebook.com/OrindaFarmersMarket or call the market’s hotline at 925.322.6228.
Barbara Kobsar can be reached at Barbara@cotkitchen.com.