Turnips made news during the SARS outbreak when prices shot up after Chinese herbalists recommended turnip soup as a preventive measure. While the humble turnip's ability to prevent SARS may be a long shot, it's no nutritional weakling -- turnips are low in calories and high in nutrients and, like all cruciferous vegetables, loaded with cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Try them today and add variety to your daily five to 10.
Selection and storage
Choose turnips that are firm, unblemished and heavy for their size (which indicates a higher moisture content). Smaller turnips are younger and will have a milder and sweeter taste. If you're buying then during harvest season, look for turnips with the greens attached, as they can be eaten as well and are very nutritious.
The Joy of Cooking recommends storing turnips in an open plastic bag in the crisper of your fridge for up to a week. Turnip greens should be stored separately from the roots, and eaten within a few days.
Turnips are a cruciferous vegetable, and contain the same anticancer compounds found in related veggies such as broccoli, cabbage and kale. "Cruciferous vegetables are linked to a lower risk of many types of cancer, including lung, prostate, colon, stomach, ovarian, and breast," write Liz Pearson and Mairlyn Smith in their book Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health (Whitecap Books, 2007). For the best health benefits, they recommend cooking cruciferous vegetables lightly or eating them raw. "Most important, don't boil them," they note. "The [anticancer] compounds are water-soluble and will be lost in the water."
Turnips also contain calcium, iron and plenty of vitamin C. However, they also have one potentially negative property: they may affect your thyroid's ability to take up iodine. If you have thyroid problems, be sure to ask your physician whether you should avoid turnips or other foods.
According to The Joy of Cooking, "turnips can be cooked and served any way potatoes are." Try them mashed, roasted or microwaved, alone or alongside other root vegetables. Turnip greens can be lightly steamed or stir-fried much the same as other greens.
Try the following recipes for ideas on more ways to cook turnips:
• Lentil Soup with Ham Hock
• Potage Paysanne
• Vegetable Sauté Medley
• Braised Oxtail and Winter Vegetables
• Silken Turnip Soup
• Potato and Turnip Purée