Salad Turnips…why aren’t you eating them again?

Look if critics can review movies like their opinion matters I can review vegetables.  Now…moving on.

“What the heck is a salad turnip?”

If that was your response to the question I posed in the title – well alright fair enough!  But, if you keep reading, you’ll no longer have ignorance as an excuse for missing out on this most amazing cold weather food.  Ahem…seriously keep reading.

Hakurei Salad Turnips freshly harvested, trimmed and rinsed.

Hakurei Salad Turnips freshly harvested, trimmed and rinsed.

According to Johnny’s Selected Seeds, the Winslow, Maine based seed company from which I purchase the vast majority of the seeds I plant here at our farm, Hakurei Salad Turnips ‘sets the standard for flavor’.  After trying several wanna be substitutes I totally agree.  None of the other varieties even come close.

I can hear your groans of disbelief now.  “Yeah, but it’s a turnip…I hate turnips!”  First of all, that’s probably because you’ve never had a turnip.  What you were forced to eat as a child, you know the flashback inducing turnip-like horror that your parents brought home from the grocery store, is not what turnips actually taste like.  But delving into that will take another blog post entirely.  I’m not talking about turnips.  I’m talking about salad turnips.

Even before they're washed salad turnips taste better than what you're thinking of...

Even before they’re washed salad turnips taste better than what you’re thinking of…

No, they are not the same thing.  Yes, ok they are turnips…technically…but other than a genus and a list of annoying garden pests to bother them they have so little in common with storage turnips, whether the delicious ones you can grow yourself or the flashback type mentioned above, it’s a stretch to even think of them as turnips.  The most glaring difference is the flavor.  Biting into a salad turnip is like being slapped in the face with awesome.

Saving Tomato Seeds 007

These pristine little orbs are sweet, juicy and mild.  I’m sure you read the word juicy and simply passed by it like any other word in a narrative.  What I meant to say was JUICY!!!!  It would be like biting into an apple and finding yourself immersed in a big vat of cider.  I am not exaggerating when I say that sometimes in the summer when it’s ridiculously hot and I’m roasting from a long day working the gardens in the sun but don’t want to bother going in to grab my water bottle (or it’s empty from previous use) I will go to the salad turnip patch, pluck one from the Earth, wipe the soil away on my pants and bite into it (if you think it’s gross that I eat things right from the Earth after wiping them on my pants I’ll bet good money you get sick a lot more than me).  Instant refreshment.  It is difficult to believe, even for me after years of having this experience, that the small, white sphere in my hand which is nearly hard as a rock when squeezed will not only break open easily when bitten but will also explode with moisture and flavor.  This characteristic holds even for the salad turnips planted at the end of August that are now lined up in rows in the hoop house.

Salad turnips are meant to be eaten raw and unadulterated.  My six-year-old and I eat them like apples.  Also, like the name implies, they are great sliced thin or cubed and tossed over a bowl of fresh lettuce from our garden, or the garden of whatever local farmer you patronize (if you buy lettuce mix at the grocery store no salad turnips will not help you.  They’re good.  They’re not miraculous).  But they’re also great cooked and prepared in a number of different ways.

You will also find, with next to zero effort, tons of ideas on the internet just by typing the words ‘salad turnip’ into a search engine.  906,000 hits!  If you can’t find something you like from that many choices I suggest your childhood exposure to not really turnips is biasing you against a member of the turnip family that benefited greatly from leaving the nest and seeing the world.  Salad turnips.  Delicious, sweet, juicy, surprising, great fresh or from the root cellar, hardy enough to survive our winters (right in the ground!) with minimal protection and great raw or cooked.  So…why aren’t you eating them again?  Local Food.  Eat well – be well.

Ryan Parker

About Ryan Parker

Ryan Parker is a farmer, writer, artist and musician. He currently lives in Central Maine with his wife, two children, a golden retriever, some pigs and chickens. He raises pastured and forested animals and grows a diverse range of vegetables without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or taxpayer subsidies.