Turnips have a long history as a food. The earliest records show turnips cultivated in Europe by 2000 BC. The Greeks and Romans grew turnips and they became a staple food in the Middle Ages and beyond.
Turnips store energy as sugar like carrots and beets, compared to root vegetables like potatoes, cassava and taro, which store their energy as starch. Starchy vegetables only become digestible after cooking, while vegetables that store their energy as sugar can be eaten raw.
The potato originated in Peru and first arrived in Europe in 1570 after the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the Americas. Potatoes were considered a peasant food so they shipped them back to Spain to feed inmates. It was not until the 1780’s that Ireland and France accepted potatoes over their native turnips. Meanwhile, the European turnip traveled across the Atlantic and arrived in Quebec, Canada, in 1541, and Virginia, USA, in 1609. During this continental exchange of root vegetables, England’s Charles Townshend became known as “Turnip Townshend” after he introduced a novel four-crop agricultural rotation system in 1730. He proved turnips made an easy to grow and store animal fodder and their rotation replaced the previous method of leaving a field lying fallow in year three.
There is a distinctively pungent radish scent while peeling young raw turnips. A nibble of a raw slice reminded me of carrot, but slightly less sweet; perfect for grating into a salad or slaw or serving on a crudités platter with dip. Turnips provide an excellent alternative to potatoes for people on a low carb diet: compare a medium turnip with eight carbs to a medium red potato with 34 carbs. Turnips are in the cabbage family; their distinctive taste appeals best to those who appreciate stronger flavors. They pair well with herbs, sauces and glazes. Use them in soups or stews or cook and mash turnips with potatoes to reduce the carbs. Try out my roasted root vegetable recipe with turnips here. Enjoy!
Copyright kittycooks, January 14, 2011 19 degrees