• Chef Kelly Unger

Turnips Root to Leaf

Turnips have many hybrid varieties which are not well known. There are also traditional Japanese varieties: Shogoin, whose bulb is more triangular than the perfect round we’re accustomed to, Hinona Kabu, a long, thin, straight variety the size of your index finger, and Hidabeni, a small roundish all purple outside with a white inside. The main varieties we see are the heirloom Purple Top White Globe and an all white variety that has a few names. Here’s a full list of 23 varieties that show the range of size, color and shapes of turnips.


Turnips are one of the perfect vegetables to enjoy root to leaf, along with carrots, beets, and radish. I like to make a mash with the turnip bulbs, with a few potatoes added in, and saute the greens with onion and garlic to serve on top. For vegetarians, you can add some Red Russian Kale to the saute pan along with peas and/or walnuts for a complete meal. For the carnivores, I love sauteeing bacon with the greens, onions and garlic or, if not using bacon, crown the pile with grilled chicken or pork tenderloin. I have both vegetarians and carnivores in my house so I make a vegetarian version with the grilled meat on the side. It is one of my favorite late Fall, early Winter dishes.


If you’re buying the purple top variety, a little extra scrubbing may be required. Since they are in season, I would not peel them at all. Sometimes when they are stored and used in the Winter, the skin gets a little tough and then may require some light peeling. But certainly not now and certainly not with any all white variety. The all whites just need a light rubbing under water to remove any dirt. Use a knife to separate the greens from the bulb Turnips, part of the cruciferous family, are a high fiber food. They are also high in potassium which helps release sodium from the body, making them helpful to those with higher blood pressure. Eating a diet high in cruciferous vegetables has an association with a lower risk of cancer. To enjoy my recipe with maximum health benefit, make the vegetarian version, eliminate the butter and cheese and use a nut milk or coconut milk instead of dairy!


Turnips Root To Leaf

1 bunch of turnips with greens, separated, bulbs chopped, greens chopped

2 large Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, diced

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Optional - ½ pound of bacon, diced

Optional - 4ozs shredded cheese - cheddar, Gruyere, Swiss, or any flavorful melting cheese

Optional - about 2 tablespoons butter

About ¼ cup milk of choice, warmed

Olive oil for sautéing, plus salt and pepper

About ½ to ¾ cup of frozen peas, rinsed and thawed

½ cup finely chopped walnuts or pistachios


In a large soup pot add the diced potatoes and rinse with cool water to get rid of the starch. Add the diced turnip bulbs and add water to fill the pot. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Keep to a medium boil and cook until fork tender. Drain well and allow steam to escape for a minute before adding butter, if using, and warm milk. Season with salt and pepper and either mash with a hand potato masher or use a hand held mixer to mash finer. Add cheese and stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Cover and keep warm.


If using the bacon, render the fat over medium heat in a sauté pan. If not using bacon, add olive oil to the sauté pan. Sauté the onions until golden brown. Add the garlic and greens and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the peas and nuts to warm through, about a minute.


To serve, place the sautéed greens on top of the mash. Serve alongside grilled meat or alone. Enjoy!




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