Getting Back on the Turnip Truck

I have no idea where the phrase, “didn’t just fall off the turnip turnip truck” originates. In fact, if you talk with my 93 year old grandmother, she’ll tell you that the milk truck was actually more hazardous. Evan Morris believes it is an example of a catch phrase based upon urban-rural rivalry.

3 lb Turnip in my CSA (egg for scale)

In other words, it’s an “I’m not naive and I wasn’t born yesterday statement” or as Evan translates it “I am not a an ignorant country bumpkin who just arrived in the big city on a truck full of lowly turnips that I was dumb enough, on top of everything else, to fall off of.” My next reaction is to wonder why it is so often that I’ve heard turnips proceeded by the adjective ‘lowly’. I mean, I’ve never heard anyone describe a beet or a carrot or kohlrabi as lowly but in contemplating this, I decide that if lowly means humble, I might enjoy turnips even more. Nutritionally, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Turnips, when eaten with their greens, pack an enormous punch. They’re rich in vitamins A, C and in Calcium. In fact, turnip greens are more nutrient dense in calcium than milk.

Suddenly, I have endless possibilities for this post. By enrolling in our CSA and advocating the same position for others, I’m already buying into the rural side of the urban-rural rivalry. Sure I live in the city but I prefer slow food, harvested locally and without pesticides reminiscent of my rural ancestry in Kansas. And knowing that turnips make a generous contribution to the health and wellness of my family cause me to want to climb right into the back of the flatbed. Heck, given that it’s National Poetry Month, I find myself scratching out an ode to the Turnip to post on Jessie Carty’s Thursday poemshare.

The reality is that each year, turnips are probably the most challenging element of my CSA. I enjoy the small white dense Hakurei variety but the purple and white ones with their distinct flavor are more difficult. Over the years I’ve disguised them in many dishes and Mr. Neep has been most helpful with ideas including the turnips in white sauce that I can serve for company. Still, when a 3 lb turnip arrived in my CSA bag this week, I was a bit perplexed.

Stuffed Turnips
Serves 8
Ingredients:
  • 1 large turnip or several small, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 lb sausage (I used local chicken sausage with basil and sundried tomatoes) or 1/2 lb cooked white cannellini beans for a vegetarian option
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard, chopped fine
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • handful coarse sourdough bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 350. Hollow out the turnips with a melon ball tool. I then blanched all the turnip pieces in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes before plunging them into iced water. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add garlic and jalapeño and saute for a couple of minutes. Add sausage and swiss chard and continue cooking until chard is wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Stir in bread crumbs, turnip scooped from the insides, seasoning and cheese. Pack this mixture into the dry turnip halves tightly. You may want to top with a little extra cheese. I baked these for about 40 minutes. The shell was still a bit tough but the contents were flavorful and well cooked. I’d love to try a Mexican variety with roasted green chilis and cumin. So, come on. Jump on the turnip truck.

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80 Comments

  1. A long time ago I grew some very nice turnips. Unfortunately I never did learn to like to eat them. Your recipe looks interesting though. Just maybe…

    Reply
    • I remember when I was little that my grandfather had his photo in the paper with giant turnips. They were much bigger than this one.

      Reply
  2. This looks great, Tammy.
    (How did you do the changing-pic trick? I love it!)

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  3. OMG you managed to make TURNIPS look good. Now I am going to have to try that recipe. Great post Tammy. :-)

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  4. I have just discovered that I love turnips! I can’t remember ever having them as a kid, but I keep eating them raw with carrots. Shall have to try your recipe!

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  5. You did an amazing job with turnips! I really have to try your recipe :)

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  6. Canadian families living in Germany post-war tell of Germans being appalled that Cdns actually ate turnips. The German people fed them to their pigs. Perhaps that is part of the “lowly”.

    I still don’t know if Germans eat turnip today or not.

    That looks delicious.

    Reply
  7. That would make a very nice soup.
    Excellent shot Tammy

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  8. I didn’t know they were packed with so much that was good for us. :) Thank you, Tammy, for teaching us about the turnip and then providing a great recipe too. You are so nice!
    I’ll be looking for that turnip ode . . .:)

    Reply
  9. That is BEAUTIFUL!! I also love how you got the images to flash like that.
    Very innovative.

    Reply
  10. Ah, I have awaited this turnip post with eager anticipation, Tammy, and that recipe is such a great payoff. Thank you!!

    Reply
  11. That is the biggest turnip I have ever seen. Your stuffed idea is marvelous! I usually just clean, chop, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast. They are yummy roasted.

    Reply
  12. How fancy! I like turnips. This is a new discovery for me. I substituted them for potatoes in stew and like them better in stew than potatoes. I love potatoes, but I prefer them baked or boiled with onions and served with butter. I’ve never tried turnip greens. We like collard and beet greens, so why not turnip greens? Great post, Tammy. Blessings to you…

    Reply
  13. Sounds good. I never ate turnips before the CSA, but I like them now.

    Reply
  14. We received turnips regularly from our CSA.

    Most often, I cooked and mashed them with potatoes. The smaller ones, I sauteed up with the greens in olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper.

    That stuffed turnip looks amazing. Thanks, Tammy.

    Reply
  15. I seem to have missed what a CSA is….?

    In Scotland I understand ‘Neeps’ are actually what we in England call swede, and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten turnip. Might try though, now I’ve seen this :)

    Reply
  16. I’m not sure what the difference is between turnips and swedes but we ate both growing up in New Zealand. They’re lovely roasted but even better mashed with loads of New Zealand butter

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  17. I’ve never enjoyed turnips cooked, but if you pull them up when they’re still on the small side, they’re delicious raw. Just peel ‘em and eat!

    Reply
  18. I love turnips, and still I eat them way to rarely. This is something that needs to be fixed! Thank you for reminding me of this wonderful vegetable! I already have ideas what to make with turnips, I just need to get some tomorrow or next week, after Easter. :)

    Also, I had no idea they are so rich in calcium! This is very interesting for me because I cannot eat most dairy products.

    In part, at least, I can understand why prior generations here have a hard time with turnips: After WWs 1 and 2, people in Germany suffered incredibly during the winter (especially the winter of 1916/1917 is called turnip winter), and turnips were one of the few things that were still there to eat. Maybe it’s because of these unhappy associations that are tucked to turnip that they’re a little out of fashion? That’s too bad because they’re such a wonderful vegetable! I hope your posts helps for a turnip comeback! I’ll support you with a recipe post soon. :)

    Reply
  19. Your stuffed turnip recipe looks fantastic! I kind of want to go buy a 3 lb turnip now just to recreate this in my kitchen…I have turnips, but they are all going into another batch of the soup I just posted about.

    Thanks for the recipes and info!!

    Reply
  20. Tammy- growing up in the south, I hated them, but now I love them, my grandmother would be proud :)

    I believe, my guess, is that the poor and migrant farm workers who moved from farm to farm picking vegetables and other groups for little pay, were considered ignorant in some ways, because they did not have a regular home and such, so thus “I didn’t fall off the turnip truck” meant you were not dumb…as I said my guess :)

    I also host a food site, and am a chef by trade, or simply a cook who is passionate about all things food!

    Reply
  21. That looks like an extremely tasty dish!

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  22. Now that’s a turnip!
    I love all vegetables and just had an amazingly yummy, huge, colorful, fresh vegetables salad a couple of days ago (I usually eat different things each day and two huge salads per week). This is when I stock up on all my vitamins so to say, and turnips are very much a part of the menu.
    My gosh, I LOVE Spring and all the wonderful greenery ;-)

    Reply
  23. My mother always used to say, “Lettuce, turnips and peas.” We would laugh and laugh….now, I am enjoying this remarkable food FRESH in many ways and dishes ~ Thanks Tammy for reminding us of the turnips! Sometimes they are forgotten.

    Reply
  24. YUM!

    What a delicious post Tammy.
    Love, S

    Reply
  25. dana

     /  April 24, 2011

    I love turnips the way my mother would make them when I was a little girl in Canada. She would boil then and mash them with butter, salt and pepper and brown sugar. Oh boy, were they delicious. In fact today for Easter we are going to mums and she has promised me there will be a bowl of freshly mashed turnips in my honor. Your receipe sounds delish Tammy, I’m going to try it.

    Reply
  26. I love turnips and their sour taste! Even the greens are good in soups with lamb shanks! Other than that, I love the idea of stuffing them like you did. In Lebanon, turnips are made into pickles and eaten with every sandwich, every day (they are dyed pink too with beets); there is also a stuffed turnip recipe.

    Reply
  27. Tammy, I have not eaten turnips in a couple of months. It is fun to include them with rutabagas and potatoes and sweet potatoes and onions and roast them with a little olive oil in an oven until done. Tonight we’re having rutabaga “french fries”. When we get back from our vacation, I’m picking up turnips again, thanks to your reminder.

    Reply
  28. Wonderful post and recipe ! I love turnips and never saw any as big as the one on your photo. What a treat ! My grandmother used them also to heal sore throat and coughing. She dug a hole in a turnip, poured some honey inside. She then forgot about this mixture for a while. My mother, who had to drink it on several occasions said it really helped :)

    Reply
  29. LOVE turnips! (to the chagrin of my hubby who most certainly does not). Even so, I still make smashed turnips for thanksgiving and thorougly enjoy eating the bowlful myself. Your recipe looks delish! :-)

    Reply
  30. Nice work with the Colossus! I have made turnip gratins, in similar fashion to potato gratins, with the jumbo ones that have been pretty tasty.

    Reply
  31. Turnips can be a bit of a challenge. I like to make a warm lentil salad with them – cook cubed turnips in lots of butter or duck fat until they’re soft, then toss them with cooked green lentils and a punchy vinaigrette. Stir in the turnip greens until they wilt. Delicious.

    Reply
  32. Mmmm, I could use my homemade sausage in this! I usually get rid of my turnips in stews but this looks like a lot of fun–and takes care of some swiss chard in the process, always a bonus!

    Reply
  33. Great post, Tammy, and super cool slide show! I rather like turnips and used to grow them a long time ago, but Dave doesn’t like them, so it’s been ages since I’ve cooked any. That big one is impressive!

    Reply
    • I think if you leave them in the ground, they’ll just keep growing! Sneak them into something without Dave knowing.

      Reply
  34. I never would have thought of stuffed turnips, I am very intrigued.

    Reply
  35. I have seen turnips but not this big.

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  36. I grew so many turnips this year, but they were awfully bitter. Dang AZ soil. Not made for turnips. Maybe I should have tried this recipe?

    Reply
  37. Great idea! I have about 3 turnips left from my CSA box this week. Any vegetarian friendly suggestions?

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    • I like them mashed with potatoes. Deborah Madison also has a good soup recipe where you float the greens on the top.

      Reply
  38. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who gets somewhat perplexed by the turnips in her CSA box! This recipe sounds delicious. I will have to try it when the large turnips come around again. Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
  39. Thanks Kath!

    Reply
  1. An Ode to the Turnip | My Funny Little Life
  2. A Little Gourmet Dinner | My Funny Little Life

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