Turnips Spring Eternal
The first time we bought vegetables after returning from our winter voyage, we went to the market we normally frequent during the more pleasant half of the year. At the first stand, a woman was selling turnips, a vegetable we had recently seen plenty of in France and Italy but which is underappreciated here. I bought a few, ready to start the new year off by getting to know this food better. The turnips lazed around on the kitchen counter for a few days before we noticed something quite interesting: they were sprouting tiny tufts of green. There is something awesome (as in its original meaning of inspiring awe as well as in its current colloquial meaning of really cool) about seeing how strong the life force is – even in the dead of winter. I put the tops of the three most promising turnips in a bowl of water, where they continue to grow. Can I keep them going until March, when it is possible to plant turnips here, or will TC not be able to resist the urge to nibble on them?
We planted turnips last spring, a variety with the colorful name Di milano a colletto viola (“From Milan with a purple collar”). My vegetable-growing bible said that turnips planted in spring do not need to be fertilized, yet ours were quite small, barely reaching the size of radishes. We had more success with the greens, which can be prepared as any leafy green and are chock full of vitamins, folate, calcium, and lutein. The turnips we bought this month at the market ended up on our table in the following way.
Slice 3 fist-sized turnips into thin slices. Arrange on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme. Bake at 180° C / 350° F around 20 minutes until puffy.
Butter a gratin dish. Put the sliced turnips in the dish, covering them with 1-2 minced cloves of garlic and 125 ml / 1/2 cup cream. Top with bread crumbs and grated cheese. We used Vorarlberger Alpkäse, but a good Swiss or Emmentaler would do fine.
Bake 20 minutes until the turnips are tender. Serve with a green salad, for example escarole with walnut oil dressing.
Why aren’t turnips more popular? Did the rise of the potato lead to the fall of the neep, which was appreciated by the ancient Greeks and Romans? How do you, dear reader, prepare turnips? This leads me to a handful of resolutions for 2013 – for what would a January blog entry be without a few? This year I would like to get to know at least 10 new foods, expanding my repertoire of recipes to include them on a regular rotation. I hope to post at least 40 times and win over 15 new followers. I’d like to finally start composting our organic kitchen waste on the balcony and to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic we bring into our home via food packaging through better grocery shopping planning.
There are a few non-food related resolutions, such as knitting a pair of socks every month and finally working my way through a stack of 24 books that I didn’t make a dent in last year, but since the sun has now set on the wintry landscape outside the window shown above, it’s time to stop for this week. Stay warm and well-fed wherever you may be.