Turnips are commonly thought of as an ingredient for cold-weather soups and stews—a root vegetable we keep by for winter storage as we do potatoes and rutabagas. But let’s not forget about spring turnips: small, delicate, white bulbs with their tender, vibrant greens—to root lovers, a celebration of the beginning of the growing season. Spring turnips are slightly sweet, and in contrast to their winter relations, can forego long braises, and in fact cooking altogether.
The first turnips appearing at the farmers’ market in spring here in Vermont are earthy yet light, a reflection of all that’s emerging and new in the natural world. While I enjoyed my first bunches of turnips in early season fashion, lightly cooked in dishes such as May Day Stew, Vermont spring suddenly and dramatically turned to summer, with several uncharacteristic high-eighty-degree days in a row. Raw salads became the order of the day, and thus Turnip Carpaccio with a sprinkling of salted turnip greens was on the menu.
Turnips are a starchy vegetable, but only slightly so, giving us a sensation of fullness but without the carb-heavy feeling we can get from potatoes. The greens contain generous amounts of vitamins C and A and calcium, and they are slightly bitter, a taste largely overlooked in the Standard American Diet, and one we might wish to develop to offset the strong attraction many of us have to sugary sweets. Salting the greens tempers their bitterness, making it a great way to ease your taste buds in to this flavor realm; it also makes them easier to digest while keeping them raw with all their living enzymes intact.
Leda Scheintaub’s latest work is The Sage and the Cook: Two Generations of Gluten and Dairy Free Cooking, an e-book series in collaboration with whole foods pioneer Rebecca Wood. The first book in the series is Soups and Stews, available from Amazon for $2.99. She is also the coauthor (with Denise Mari) of the forthcoming Organic Avenue; coauthor (with Carol Alt) of Easy, Sexy Raw; the recipe developer for The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto; and author of Chipotle: Smoky Hot Recipes for All Occasions. She is also a graduate of the chef’s training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York. She has been a freelance writer, editor, and recipe tester for the past ten years. She lives with her husband in southern Vermont, where you’ll often find her at the Brattleboro Area Farmers’ Market.