Valley Bounty: Turnips

Until recently, I thought the turnip was in the awkward position of being neither a potato nor a radish. A potato I know what to do with, and the same goes for a radish, but a turnip’s culinary strengths were less clear to me. This failing, of course, was on me, and not the turnip itself — the historian Pliny the Elder reportedly ranked it with grains and beans as one of the most important crops of the Roman Empire, so who am I to call it less praiseworthy than its fellow starchy tubers? This season I’m attempting to put my pre-conceived notions aside and approach the turnip with clear eyes.

Turnips, it turns out, function a lot like potatoes in the kitchen (though they end up with a much sweeter flavor, closer to beets), and are most commonly presented mashed. That sweetness, in my opinion, makes the turnip especially well-suited to being served au gratin, as it lends a nice balance to strong savory and salty flavors. Hash and home fries, the twin pillars of breakfast starch, also gain an interesting new dimension by blending turnips in with potatoes. If all else fails, roasting turnips in duck fat and seasoning with salt and pepper is a fairly sure-fire crowd pleaser.

Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)