Purple Top Turnips. Not Just Animal Fodder.

It took me awhile to find purple top turnip inspiration.  I sat, pen in hand, blank paper in front of me, and……nothing.  I tried saying “TURNIP” out loud, hoping that might awaken some hidden enthusiasm.  Googling for purple top turnips reveals that most of the turnips in the world are grown as forage for cattle.  Turnips for human consumption are widely viewed with suspicion.

I recruited my husband for his take on turnips.  I posed a question.  “When I say turnip, you say….”


Not what I was looking for.  But, as turnips and rutabagas are related and often confused, it wasn’t such a bad answer.

I tried one more time. “No, really.  When I say turnip, you say…..”

“IT’S NOT A TUBER!” he replied, in his best Austrian accent.

This is vegetable humor, based on the movie Kindergarten Cop.  When Arnold Schwarzenegger tells one of his kindergarten kids he has a headache, the hypochondriac kid tells him “it might be a tumor.”  Arnie replies “IT’S NOT A TUMOR!”   This is funny in my house.

Instead of sparking discussion about turnips, my husband and I then started wondering what exactly a tuber is. (Definition here.) And IS a turnip a tuber? (Answer = yes.)

Turnips get a bad reputation because they behave a bit differently than other winter root vegetables.  They can be stored, but stored turnips tend to be bitter.  Historically, turnips were stored, then boiled into oblivion as a bitter, but important nutritional staple.  Today, purple top turnips (and all other types of turnips) are best eaten fresh. 

Ivy Manning in The Farm to Table Cookbook, recommends selecting only the smaller ones, with greens still attached as a gauge of freshness.  The best ones are firm.  Turnips can be grown year round, but are sweetest when the weather is cold and wet.

It was Ivy’s recipe for Maple-Glazed Turnips and Carrots that finally inspired me.

About 3/4lb turnip and a large carrot, steamed in 1/4 cup of water.


When the turnips were tender, I added 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon maple syrup.


Salt and pepper was added to taste.

When turnips achieve tenderness, they lose their crispness and take on a texture much more like a potato, but with a hint of sweetness (even before the maple syrup.)

“This would be good with a fried egg on it,” my husband said.  And I think he’s right!  Turnips for brunch.  Why not?


Want more veggies?  Check out last week’s veggie story:  Rutabaga Retraction!  New veggie stories every Thursday.

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New to The Weekly Veggie? Read how it all began with My Childhood Vegetable Nemesis.


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