Thursday, 17 March 2011

The year I learnt to love turnips

Turnips have been a recurring theme this winter. They first reared their heads in a planning meeting for Norwich FarmShare. Alejandro was working hard to understand how much veg people might want each week, and had consulted with a group of soon-to-be members. He came back to our meeting with his findings and shook his head sadly, saying "Nobody wants any turnips.". No, I thought. I most certainly don't.

But then I got this wonderful book for Christmas. It's written in the most delicious way which veers from sharply dry in one sentence to lusciously gushing in another. It's The Flavour Thesaurus, by Niki Segnit. In it she pairs flavours and ponders the outcomes, chasing after geographical, historical and scientific tidbits, and glorying in the flavours all around us.

So far, so un-transitiony. But as I flicked through the book, occasionally pausing to wipe the drool from my chin, I found the page about swede: "Unlike parsnip and potato, swede has a rather good flavour when raw- it's hot and sweet like a radish". Which got me wondering about turnips- why didn't she mention turnips? If they weren't good to eat raw, she'd have said "unlike parsnip and turnips" surely, as they're much more similar than potatoes are. Further down the page, it said that swede are thought to be a cross between turnips and cabbage. Well, I thought. Swede and cabbage are edible raw, so why not turnips? Not very scientific, I admit! So I googled it and found it written in more than one place that Turnip are edible raw- so I tried it.

Yum! Raw turnip is a lot like a radish, and I love radishes. They're even pretty good cooked. Peel them, cut them in half root to tip and slice them as thinly as possible for beautiful glowing little half-moons. They're just right for stir-frying or adding to a hot and sour Vietnamese noodle soup. But better still is including them in a..... but that's a story for another day. Come back tomorrow to find out my absolute favourite turnip recipe.


  1. Mad about those turnips, especially the small ones with their leaves still on steamed as a salad. The brilliant veg cook and (Guardian) food writer, Colin Spencer (who once lived in East Anglia), made a Japanese-style pickle with beetroot which turned them pink . . . tasty in all ways.

    I think there's a cultural prejudice about this noble brassica. I once studied a French play (Becket) where the ultimate put down to earthy Anglo-Saxon peasants was navette.

    You lowly muddy turnip heads! cried the upper-food-chain Normans and oppressed everyone with their fancy cooking. In these low-carbon cookbook downshift times however it's definitely cooler to eat below salt . . . veg is the new meat. And turnip is king.

  2. On Pleasure

    Kahlil Gibran

    Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
    But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
    For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
    And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
    And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.

  3. sorry, I meant that comment to go with the bees post! xxx though maybe there is a link to bees and turnips?