Salad Turnips: The Unsung Heroes of Fall

 In

By Abby Lundrigan, Turner Farm Crop Production Manager

By late summer each year, I’ve begun to tire (with some guilt) of summer’s harvest. I’ve had enough tomatoes, I am a little tired of picking summer squash, and I have more peppers than I know what to do with. Around the time that many people start to feel a longing for sweater weather and pumpkin-flavored coffee, I am dreaming of turnips.

Turnips are among the humblest of root crops.  They usually don’t have the vibrant colors of carrots and beets, and they don’t share their characteristic sweetness…or their loyal following. And while I also love radishes and look forward to their triumphant return in the fall, I believe humble turnips, and in particular a class of turnips known as “salad turnips,” belong among the ranks of the already-celebrated radishes, carrots, and beets.  

For many people, the familiarity they have with turnips is limited to the oversized white and purple root common in grocery stores. These purple-top turnips are great roasted, in a soup or stew, or in many other classic turnip preparations. In the past few years however, we’ve introduced the smaller and less-familiar “salad turnips” into our family of fall root crops.

The three varieties of salad turnips we grow at Turner Farm are “Hakurei,” “Scarlet Ohno Revival,” and “Hinona Kabu.” These are all Japanese varieties, and each has a flavor slightly unique from the rest. Salad turnips are amazingly versatile, and I always encourage customers to try them raw before cooking them the way they would their purple-topped counterparts.

Although they are also good lightly sautéed or roasted, I cringe at the thought of overcooking them! They are less starchy than an average turnip, with a texture that deserves to be eaten raw or barely cooked. Hakurei turnips in particular have the tender, almost creamy texture of a spring radish. With none of the sharp heat of a radish, their more mellow turnip flavor shines through. Salad turnips are crisp and tender; my favorite way to eat them is sliced thinly and piled on top of a slice of  toast with plenty of good butter and a sprinkle of salt. They are also excellent in salads or make a unique addition to crudités.

And don’t forget the greens! Their greens are less tough than typical turnip greens, and don’t have their characteristic “hairiness.” They can be added to salads or sautéed lightly in a stir fry.

Last but not least, salad turnips are delightful pickled, especially the “Scarlet Ohno Revival” or “Hinona Kabu” varieties. Their coloration lends a beautiful pink tint to their pickling liquid.

So, before you get too sad about saying goodbye to tomatoes, peppers, and the rest of summer’s bounty, give salad turnips a try! They will quickly join your list of things to look forward to with the arrival of fall.

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