Turnips are popular, nutritious root vegetables. They are round, tuberous roots grown in many parts of Europe, and Asia as one of the cool-season vegetables. Botanically, they belong to Brassicaceae family, a broad family of greens and vegetables which also includes cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, etc.
Although this bulbous root is widely recognized, its fresh green tops indeed are more nutritious, several times richer in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Scientific name: Brassica rapa (Rapifera Group).
Tiny, young turnips or “baby turnips” are harvested quite early at their growing stage. Baby turnips feature delicate, sweeter taste and can be eaten raw in salads. However, as they advance in size and maturity, their flavor become more pronounced, lose texture, and become hard and woody.
Rutabaga is another root vegetable that is closely related to turnips. Rutabagas are larger, rounder, and sweeter in flavor than turnips. Inside, they feature yellow flesh in contrast to the pearly-white flesh of turnips. Both these roots have been cultivated as a staple food since ancient Greek and Roman periods.
Health benefits of turnips
Turnips are very low-calorie root vegetables; carry just 28 calories per 100 g. Nonetheless, they are an excellent source of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber.
Fresh roots indeed one of those vegetables that are rich in vitamin-C. 100 grams of fresh root provides about 21 mg, or 35% of DRA of vitamin C. Vitamin-C is a powerful water-soluble antioxidant required by the human body for synthesis of collagen. It also helps the body scavenge harmful free radicals, prevention from cancers, inflammation, and helps boost immunity.
Turnip greens indeed are the storehouse of many vital nutrients. The green tops compose of many minerals and vitamins several times more than that in the roots. The greens are an excellent source of antioxidants such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C, carotenoid, xanthin, and lutein. Further, the leafy tops are an excellent source of vitamin-K.
Also, its top greens are also a fine source of the B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and thiamin and also an excellent source of essential minerals like calcium, copper, iron, potassium, and manganese.
Selection and storage
Fresh turnips can be available year round. However, fresher and sweeter roots flood the stores in abundance from October through March. Completely grown tubers measure about two to three inches in diameter and weigh between 60 to 250 g.
Fresh tubers usually sold either in the bunch with top greens or topped. In the markets look for fresh roots that are small to medium in size, firm, round and impart delicate sweet flavor. Avoid larger as well as overmatured roots as they are woody in texture due to excess fiber content and, therefore, unappetizing.
Once at home, separate the top greens fro the root as the greens rob nutrients off the roots. The roots can be stored for a few weeks at low temperatures (32°-35° F) and high relative humidity (95 percent or above). Use top greens as early as possible since they lose nutrients rather quickly.
Preparation and serving methods
Both root and its top greens can be used in cooking. Wash roots in cold running water to remove sand, soil and any fungicide residues from the surface. Trim the top and bottom ends. Peeling may not be necessary if roots are young; however, large turnips feature tough skin and require peeling.
Here are some serving tips:
Young turnips are one of the favored items in raw salads for their sweet taste, complementing with cabbage, parsnips, carrots, and beets.
Its cubes can mix well with other vegetables like kohlrabi, potato, carrots in the preparation of a variety of stews.
Diced turnip can be added to poultry, lamb, and pork.
Add raw baby turnip slices with olives and cherry tomatoes to prepare delicious appetizer.
Turnip cubes can be pickled in a way similar to other vegetables like radish, chili-peppers, carrot in many parts of Northern India, Iran, and Pakistan.
Top greens are used with other greens and vegetables in soups, curries, and stews.
Turnips and top greens are very safe to eat, including in pregnant women.
However, the root and its top greens contain small amount oxalic acid (0.21 g per 100 g), a naturally-occurring substance found in some vegetables belonging to Brassica family, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the kidneys and urinary tract in some people. It is, therefore, those with known oxalate urinary tract stones may want to avoid them in the food. Adequate intake of water is advised to maintain normal urine output in these individuals to minimize the stone risk.