Common turnips are made up of edible roots, stems and leaves. Several stems of the plant sprout from the bulbous root into broad green leaves. The root itself is roughly 3 inches in diameter, two-toned with magenta blushed tops and white bottoms that flow into the bulb’s tapered thin taproot. Often, the taproot is trimmed before being sold in a supermarket. Turnips have a similar flavor and texture to radishes. Their bone white flesh is firm, crunchy succulent, earthy sweet and peppery.
Turnips are best harvested year-round.
Turnips, Brassica rapa, are members of the mustard family, thus they are related to cauliflower and cabbage. Turnip is a general name given to over 30 domesticated varieties of turnips which vary in size, color, flavor and usage. Many varieties are planted for human consumption while larger varieties are reserved specifically as feedstock for animals.
Turnips are a quintessential cellar vegetable utilized in many classic European dishes. It was Escoffier who embellished the turnip’s culinary attributes, elevating its purpose in dishes such as navets farces (stuffed turnips) and Navarin a la Printaniere (Young turnips with Spring Lamb). Turnips can be utilized for fresh eating when young, though they are truly transformed, their flesh softened and their flavors rich and sweet, when cooked. Best cooking methods are braising, simmering, slow roasting and sautéeing. Turnips can also be made into smooth purées and soups. Turnips pair well with other root vegetables such as beets, parsnips and carrots. They also pair with rich meats such as pork, beef, sausages and game. Other complimentary ingredients include butter, cream, cheese, chives, chestnuts, garlic, citrus, mushrooms, parsley, potatoes, tarragon, thyme and vinegar.