All About Rutabagas and Turnips
The turnips included in your share in the fall are more like rutabagas than the salad turnips you saw in the spring. References to turnips in these notes refer to these fall turnips. Turnips and rutabagas can be used interchangeably in many recipes. The flavor of Gilfeather turnips resembles that of rutabagas more than that of purple-top or scarlet turnips.
Choose rutabagas and turnips that are smooth, unblemished, and heavy for their size. They can keep for months in a plastic bag in the back of the refrigerator.
If keeping large amounts for longer term storage, cull rutabagas and turnips that are bruised, cut or diseased. Twist off the tops, if attached, leaving about half an inch of stems. Store the roots in layers in boxes of moist sand, sawdust or peat, or in heaps or ridges covered with a layer of soil and straw. Place them in a cool (32-40⁰F), damp, dark place such as a basement or root cellar.
Rinse the roots, cut off the stem and root ends, and peel off the skin (including all the waxy layer, if they were store bought). Chop the flesh into ½”, 1″, or 2″ cubes that can be roasted, boiled, steamed, microwaved, sauteed, braised, or simmered in stews and soups.
Cubes can be blanched for approximately 2 minutes for turnips or 3 minutes for rutabagas, shocked in ice cold water to arrest cooking, and frozen. Or cooked rutabaga or turnip can be mashed, cooled, and frozen.
Rutabagas and turnips can also be pickled.
Recipe: Minestrone-like Vegetable Soup with Rutabaga
I’ve been riffing on minestrone for the last few winters, making big pots twice a month. I typically use water and have found any richer stock to be unnecessary. Depending on my mood and pantry stores, I vary the base (tomato or not), vegetables, type of bean, or whether to include beans, or grains or pasta, the herbs and spices, and how soupy or stewy it is. Sometimes I throw in greens at the end. It takes little more than an hour to make this delicious and enormous pot of soup because I chop as I go. I started doing this as a time-saver, but it turns out that it also helps layer flavors while cooking. I season with salt and freshly ground pepper with each addition to the sauté. Gourmet magazine featured a similar winter minestrone that incorporates pancetta in the initial sauté.
The other thing that speeds up cooking with dried beans is using recently harvested beans, such as from the relatively local Baer’s Beans. Their heirloom varieties are particularly good (e.g. Jacob’s cattle beans), and all the beans seem tastier than what I purchase at stores. Beans harvested recently cook in 30-45 minutes with no pre-soaking, but some varieties may take longer. Pre-soaking doesn’t hurt, however, and of course, canned beans will also work. I find canned garbanzos have the least difference in texture and taste from dried beans. Most canned beans will be fairly mushy for a soup and should be added towards the end of cooking.
Here’s one variation I made last year with Gilfeather turnips, which are really a type of rutabaga.
For the beans:
2 cups dried beans (optionally presoaked)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
Optional: 1 tsp dried oregano
Sort the beans to remove any small stones or diseased beans, rinse them, and add to a pot with the other ingredients. Add water to cover by a couple inches for presoaked beans or 3 inches or so for dried beans. Bring just to a boil and keep at a low simmer until just tender. If you are unsure of the cooking time for the beans, it would be best to do these steps ahead of time. Or, the stove can be turned off under the vegetable sauté and started again when the beans are ready.
For the soup:
1-2 Tb olive oil (or other oil)
1 large onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves
2 medium-to-large carrots, diced
1 large celery stalk, diced (optional, or celery root could be used)
1 large-ish gilfeather turnip or other rutabaga, chopped in ½-1″ cubes
~half dozen small white or Yukon gold potatoes, chopped in ½-1″ cubes (or omit potato and double rutabaga)
~1/2 small or 1/4 large green cabbage, ~4 cups, chopped in 1″ pieces
2-3 cups cooked beans, one type or a mixture
Salt, fresh ground pepper
Optional: handfuls of chopped kale, chard, beet greens, escarole, etc.
1/2-1 tsp dried oregano, or other herbs or spices to your taste. For example, each of the following would take the soup in a different direction: ground toasted coriander, cumin, and/ or fennel; dried basil; fresh or frozen chopped dill; celery salt; smoked paprika; or a drizzle of basil pesto to garnish.
Handful of chopped parsley, fresh or from freezer, including stems
For each of the sauté steps, as you add each vegetable to the pan, sprinkle them with salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Measuring out 1-2 teaspoons of salt into a small dish helps keep track of the total amount of salt.
Sauté onions in olive oil over medium high heat. While onions are cooking, chop carrots; after adding carrots, mince garlic, etc, in the following order: onions, carrots, garlic, celery. A bit more oil can be added anytime it seems warranted, and the heat should also be kept low enough that the vegetables do not brown too quickly.
Once all the vegetables have been sautéed and are starting to brown, if the beans are not yet tender, turn off the heat under the vegetables and wait.
Once the beans are tender, add them and some (or all) of their cooking liquid to the pot along with the potatoes and rutabaga, another 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp dried oregano or other dried herbs and spices, and water to cover by an inch (or more). The amount of water determines how thin the soup is, and with more water you may need to increase the salt or spices.
Add cabbage and some chopped parsley (if using) to the pot after ~5-10 minutes, continue cooking another 15 minutes until all vegetables are tender. Five minutes after adding the cabbage, add chopped greens, if using. Taste for seasoning.
Flavors will develop further after a day or so. The soup freezes well if you omit the potatoes.
Jackie Starr is a LexFarm founding member who has been a flexitarian home cook for 25 years. Her recipe selections and adaptations are informed by experiences living abroad, by having spent many years in the Bay Area and Seattle, and by a delight in local, seasonal bounty.
Recipe: Turnip Risotto
I actually made this dish in my rice cooker, and the only things I measured were the risotto and water that I preboiled in my electric kettle. I poured the last 2 cups of water in, stirred, closed the lid and walked away. When the rice cooker beeped, I opened the lid to add butter and cheese – don’t scrimp on the cheese and make sure you use good Parmesan, because if you use one of the long shelf life jars of Parmesan in this dish, it will probably taste like toilet bowl.
For the purpose of this newsletter submission I referred to this web page for recipe measurements.
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1/2 – 1/3″ dice
2 cups cubed turnip – small cubes – about 1/3″
2 cups Arborio rice
2 pinches saffron
3 to 4 cups water or chicken stock, kept HOT
1 cup medium dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Drop saffron threads in wine to soften.
Coat a large saucepan generously with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) over medium heat. Add the onions and salt and sweat them until translucent, about 5 minutes. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, scraping the bottom every once in a while with a wooden spoon.
Add the saffron and wine to the pan and stir. Season with salt and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring continuously until the wine has absorbed into the rice. This doesn’t take long, so this is NOT the time to start cutting your turnip. Have your cubes ready. Add the turnip cubes and stir. Pour in water or stock to cover the rice veggie mixture. Cook over a medium-high heat, stirring until the liquid has absorbed into the rice.
Repeat the process of covering rice with liquid, stirring, etc. ideally two more times. When the liquid has absorbed and the rice is creamy, yet not overcooked to mush, remove it from the heat. 2 cups of risotto take about 30 min to cook, but you are going for consistency, so taste and decide what mouth feel pleases your soul.
Toss in the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix it all in. The taste vastly improves after this step.
Tina Jaillet is a Lexington resident and LexFarm founding member. She has boundless interests yet sharing foods with loved ones is a daily pursuit. Tina volunteers for the LexFarm educational committee.
Recipe: Pink Pickled Turnips
Before moving to Arlington, I lived for many years in Roslindale, a wonderful part of Boston filled with “walk-to” family-owned businesses, many reflecting the cultural diversity of our neighborhood’s population. During my time there, I acquired a taste for the bright pink pickles that one nearby lunch spot would put on their falafel or hummus sandwiches. I was later thrilled to find enormous jars of them for sale at Droubi Brothers Bakery, a Middle Eastern pita bakery and grocery that has been in Roslindale Village for decades. I hadn’t even realized that the pickles were made from turnips until I bought one of those jars at Droubi’s and read the label.
When I began pickling, much more recently, it brought back memories for me to come across the recipe “Pink Pickled Turnips” in “The Joy of Pickling” by Linda Zeidrich. I make a few jars of these whenever I have some turnips available. I have made them with just about any kind of turnip, even salad turnips, though the classic version uses varieties of cooking turnips.
My recipe is modified from the one in “The Joy of Pickling”. My primary changes are that I use plain white vinegar instead of white wine vinegar and that I can the jars for long-term storage instead of storing them in the refrigerator for a few weeks. This recipe can easily be adjusted to accommodate the amount of turnips you have on hand. Just try to keep the proportions of vegetables to liquid as close to this as possible.
Even if you’re not a fan of turnips, if you like pickles please try this! The author of “The Joy of Pickling” wrote that she had never liked turnips until she tried these. I have always loved turnips, anyway, but find that the flavor of these pickles is very different from any other turnip dish I’ve had. Enjoy!
3 lbs turnips, peeled and cut into small chunks (bite-size)
Leafy tops of 2 to 3 celery stalks
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small beet, peeled and sliced
2 cups white distilled vinegar (I use organic vinegar from Whole Foods)
2 cups water
1 Tbs pickling or sea salt (not regular table salt)
Divide the raw vegetables into clean canning jars. (This amount fills about 2 qt jars, or the corresponding number of smaller jars). Use more garlic cloves if needed to ensure that each jar has some. Usually about 2 cloves per qt, or 1 clove per pint, is enough. Also, break up the celery stalks to make sure some celery is in each jar. Essentially, the jar will be mostly turnips with at least one or two slices of beets to provide the color.
Heat the water and vinegar on the stove and stir in the salt until it dissolves.
Cover the vegetables in the jars with the hot liquid and fill it up to about 1/4 inch from the top. Probe at the veggies gently with a chopstick to release trapped air bubbles. Apply the two-piece covers and screw on the lids to prepare for canning. (Make sure to add the hot liquid right before processing so that the jars do not have a chance to cool, or they may crack when submerged in the boiling water.) Process the jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. Ensure that the boiling water covers the jar tops by at least 1 inch. (Consult basic canning references for more details.) After canning, let the jars cool and store them in your pantry for at least 10 days before opening for optimal flavor.
Sue Doctrow is a LexFarm member, CSA shareholder (2 seasons so far!), and a volunteer on the LexFarm Property Committee. She lives in Arlington, a short walk from the farm, and is also a member of the Robbins Farm Garden, a cooperative community vegetable garden in Arlington. As a biochemist, Sue is especially fascinated with her fermentation experiments.
More Ideas for Rutabagas and Turnips
Note that in most recipes, turnips and rutabagas can be used interchangeably. The exception to this rule is the salad turnip, also known as the Japanese or Harukei turnip. Recipes ideas for salad turnips can be found here.
Bake layered rutabaga and potatoes in Roots Anna.
Rutabagas are just one of the vegetables in pan-roasted root vegetables.
Pickle turnips for a delicious snack or condiment.
- Use traditional pickling spices.
- Make Senmai-zuke, pickled turnips Japanese-style, a little spicy or not.
- Middle Eastern-style picked turnips use slices of beets for a pink coloring. Try a brine with sugar or without, or add a few celery leaves for an extra flavor note.
The Gilfeather turnip is an heirloom variety from VT that is actually more like a rutabaga and is very mild and sweet. Here’s a way to roast smashed Gilfeathers in which they are roasted, smashed, then roasted again until caramelized.
Dress up roasted rutabagas with panko gremolata and pomegranate seeds.
Try marinating chunks of rutabaga in this Greek-style dressing before roasting.
Toss cubes of roasted rutabaga in brown butter.
Or rutabagas could stand alone in a pot of rutabaga-chipotle soup.
Winter squash, miso, and tahini complement turnip in this simple soup.
Turnips make this creamless soup creamy.
Turnips are a delicious addition to many mixed vegetable soups, complementing other seasonal vegetables you have on hand. Try barley vegetable soup, vegetarian root vegetable minestrone (add turnips or substitute them in place of parsnips) or minestrone with fish and root vegetables.
This soup uses the whole vegetable: turnips and their greens.
Puree carrots and rutabaga together for this simple soup.
This North African stew with beef and rutabaga can simmer all day in the slow cooker.
Irish lamb and turnip stew is finished with a generous helping of fresh herbs.
Transform roasted turnips into salad, as in this salad with a parsley-mustard vinaigrette or this one with dill and walnuts. Add grains, such as farro, in this salad with roasted turnip and its greens. If the turnips don’t come with greens, substitute other greens, such as Swiss chard or mustard greens.
Shred rutabagas, plus apples, winter squash and other root vegetables, for this squash and root vegetable slaw with apple cider vinaigrette.
Slice a turnip thinly along with other roots to make a shaved root vegetable salad.
Combine cooked cubes of turnips and parsnips with couscous and lemon-tahini dressing for this root vegetable salad.
Add roasted turnips or rutabagas to this colorful winter rainbow panzanella.
Simmer rutabaga in a spiced vinegar bath and top with salsa verde for a different sort of salad.
Add turnips to a chicken stir-fry served with rice noodles.
Here’s an interesting stir-fry with turnips glazed in honey and soy sauce along with radishes and crispy mushrooms.
Roll into fresh spring rolls made with fall vegetables.
Let rutabaga be the star in curry, as in rutabaga masala. Or add to a chicken curry. Make a turnip curry with a spiced yogurt sauce or mustard seeds and coconut milk. You could replace potatoes in your favorite curry recipe with diced rutabagas or turnips.
Include turnip matchsticks with the vegetables of Bibimbap.
Substitute rutabaga or turnips for some of the potatoes in recipes that typically use only potatoes. Make gnocchi from a combination of rutabaga and potato, or top shepherd’s pie with a blend of mashed rutabaga and potatoes
Simmer diced turnip in the pot for these warm French lentils. The small French-style green lentils are worth seeking out. You can find them in the bulk section at Whole Foods.
Add turnip to this vegetarian-version of baeckeoffe, an Alsatian casserole.
There are many variations of fritters, with or without potatoes. Make the German rutabaga fritters called steckrubenpuffer. Try adding feta or garam masala to your fritters. Make zucchini fritters with rutabaga or turnips. These turnip and potato patties are a cross between a pancake and a fritter.
Here are three Greek ways to use turnips: skorthalia, fritters and chips.
Rutabagas and turnips take well to frying. Make a rutabaga hash with onions and crisp bacon. Shred an assortment of root vegetables, including turnips or rutabagas, for some vegan fritters. Or make patties from mashed turnip and beans.
Sauté rutabaga and carrot matchsticks with a spicy sauce.
Bake a cake! Start with raw, grated rutabaga to make a honey cake (gluten-free or not), a spice cake (dusted with confectioners’ sugar or iced with vanilla frosting), or a cake with pineapple and coconut. Or start with cooked, mashed turnip for a spice cake with nuts or raisins.
- Compiled by Jackie Starr and Betsy Pollack