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Turnip greens are slender stems, averaging 10 to 30 centimeters in length, that grow in a low-spreading, rosette pattern with 8 to 10, broad and flat leaves. The stems grow directly from the top of the root and are pale green, crunchy, and fibrous. Connected to the stems, the leaves are green, crisp, smooth, and have jagged edges with prominent veining across the surface. Turnip greens, when harvested young, have a tender, crisp consistency and mild, peppery, and vegetal flavor. As the greens mature, the flavor intensifies into a spicy, bitter taste and becomes tougher, developing a chewy texture.
Turnip greens are available year-round, with a peak season in the winter through spring.
Turnip greens, botanically classified as Brassica rapa, are the edible stems and leaves of the turnip root that belongs to the Brassicaceae family. Turnip plants have been growing wild since ancient times and were initially cultivated as animal feed. Over time, the use of the greens evolved from animal feed into an affordable, nourishing culinary ingredient. Turnip greens are still widely consumed around the world in the modern-day, and while they are often overshadowed in commercial markets by other greens such as collard greens and kale, they are highly favored among home chefs for their spicy flavor, crisp texture, versatility, and high nutritional content.
Turnip greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, which can help prevent vision loss and vitamin K, which aids the blood in forming effective clots. The greens are also a good source of fiber, which can help regulate digestion and contain vitamin C, folate, and minerals such as zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
Turnip greens are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as sautéing, steaming, braising, and boiling. When the greens are young, they can be eaten raw in green salads, stirred into potato salads, layered into sandwiches, or minced into dressings, dips, and sauces such as pesto. The greens can also be blended into smoothies or juiced for a healthy beverage. As the leaves mature, they develop a bitter taste and must be cooked to create a palatable flavor. Turnip greens can be sautéed and used as a topping over baked potatoes, mixed with rice and beans, baked into lasagna, gratins, and casseroles, or tossed into stews and soups. They can also be steamed and stirred into mashed potatoes, roasted into chips, cooked into omelets, or used as a spinach substitute. Turnip greens pair well with cheeses such as blue, parmesan, and swiss, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, fennel, corn, meats such as pork, turkey, and bacon, tofu, and herbs such as thyme, sage, parsley, basil, and dill. The fresh greens perish quickly and should be consumed immediately for the best quality and flavor. They can also be stored up to three days in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
In Europe, one of the most famous turnip festivals occurs annually in Richterswii, Switzerland, along Lake Zurich. The celebration is held every November and is known as Rabechilbi or the turnip lantern festival. Thousands of turnips are used during the festivities, and the roots are hollowed out to create illuminated lanterns. The carved turnips are also built into large shapes ranging from houses, animals, to boats and are paraded down the city streets while festivalgoers gather with their loved ones to enjoy the structures. Illuminated turnips symbolize the warmth of home during the winter season, and the tradition dates back to 1905. In addition to the parade, vendors line the streets during the celebration to sell homemade crafts, sweets, and dishes using Turnip greens and roots.
Turnip greens are native to Europe and have been growing wild since ancient times. From Europe, the plants were spread via trade routes to Asia thousands of years ago and are still widely used in culinary applications in the modern-day. The plants were also brought to the Americas in the 17th century and became a favored cooking green in the southern United States. In Europe, turnips were a prominent crop for many centuries until the newly introduced potato replaced them in the 18th century. Today Turnip greens are challenging to find in commercial markets in comparison to the roots and are primarily found through local farmer’s markets and specialty grocers across Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Africa, and Australia.
Recipes that include Turnip Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.
|West of the Loop||Sauteed Turnip Greens with Green Garlic|