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Talk to me about turnip greens  RSS feed

 
Ann Torrence
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Yay me, my turnips from the hoop house are ready for the Thanksgiving table. Planted Sept 1, they are now a little bigger than ping pong balls. Harukei white variety because that was the seed I had. I wasn't sure they'd bulb up at all this late in the year, but they did.

Now to the greens. These are not in my food heritage at all. Are the greens usually just the tops of harvested turnips or is there something special about cultivating them for greens? I'm finding some interesting recipes at the usual places, but is there a favorite way to prepare them? Tips on prepping them to cook? Do you cook the stems like chard, a few minutes in the pan before the leaves? Do they get slimy like spinach or hold their texture like kale? In short, HELP!
 
Ken Peavey
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Turnip greens, in my opinion, is one of the better greens. Easy to grow, takes a frost well, highly productive, edible raw or cook em up any way you like.
These are cut and come again. Cut or snap off the outer leaves, new leaves will grow from the center. Smaller leaves will be a bit more tender, but even the large leaves are quite thin. The stems are easy to chew, older stems too. The stems don't get stiff as do collards. The simplest method of cooking: put em in a pot, boil em up for a couple minutes, top with a dab of butter and splash of vinegar.
As the leaves grow they will form tiny prickly structures on the underside. Nothing to worry about, it only makes them a bit rough when raw. Upon cooking this roughness goes away.
Cleaning is easy as the leaves are not ruffled or savoyed. They grow very well in the cool weather when bugs are not so much of a concern.
 
Ken Peavey
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forgot the pictures!

Prepare the root as you would beets, carrots, potatoes, or just about any vegetable you regularly eat.
I think adding a small turnip to some mashed potato gives them a nice kick.
turnip-greens.jpg
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Ready to harvest
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Roots and leaves are delicious
supper.jpg
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Mashed root with gravy, boiled greens, local sausage
 
Rebecca Norman
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I agree with Ken, turnip greens are a nice cooking green. Just whack 'em up and saute with your choice of oil or fat, and of course some onions and garlic. The leaves don't get totally soft like spinach. The stems aren't stringy if they are young -- so basically just take a few suspect stems and break them raw and even chew one up. If they have long strings they might not soften on cooking so leave them out; if they don't seem stringy raw, then chop the stems up and include them.

Bon app├ętit!
 
Russell Olson
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One of my favorites.
Turnips have to be the most underutilized crop ever. They are super easy to grow, tasty root and greens, and great for a filler cover crop.
Try the greens with butter and a touch of lemon juice. We add the root into every stir fry we make sliced, diced, or cubed. Best though is turnip stewed in curry sauce with various other things(chicken, chickpeas, potato)

I had survivors pop up and go to seed after last winter, I got maybe a pound of seed from maybe 10 plants, now I toss seed all over in corners and random spots.
My first abundance crop, I have more than I ever will need, those I don't can be chopped and dropped for good green mulch.
 
Ann Torrence
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Ken Peavey wrote:
These are cut and come again. Cut or snap off the outer leaves, new leaves will grow from the center. Smaller leaves will be a bit more tender, but even the large leaves are quite thin.


Ken, do you cut & cut & cut and then at some point dig the root? Or do you sacrifice that root for greens production letting the root get old and pithy? When I grow beets for greens, like bull's blood, I don't mess with the roots, but it seems turnips could be different.
 
Ken Peavey
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As soon as the leaves are big enough to get a meal I start the harvest. Lots of plants means I'll start taking the leaves at 2-3". From seed to first harvest is maybe 3 weeks.
I take the outer leaves, they'll be bigger and fill the bowl/bucket/basket faster. The center leaves will keep growing, as will the root. I don't take all the leaves. Gotta let the plant keep growing. I've left them looking like a molting hen. I can get another harvest in a couple weeks from the same plants. About 3 dozen plants will give me a meal every week for 3 months. I plant them at 4" intervals. 4 square feet, 2'x2', produces all I can stand.
Turnips are biennial. They won't bolt the first year. The leaves never get bitter. Larger leaves will see some strings in the stem. Chop them a few times before cooking and it's not a problem.
Summer heat will slow down production. The greens grow faster in the sun and can get long. This gives you lots of stem for the amount of leaves. I cut them short in the kitchen and put em in the compost bucket.
Winter slows growth. By the time the plants have slowed down the roots have grown to substantial size. 3 or 4 roots is a heaping bowl.
Turnip is a shallow root crop and as it grows will break up the surface of the soil.

Cooking Roots
I cut of the crown end deep to clean it up. This crown area is thin but can have a tougher texture. I cut off the root to be flush with the ball. Any blemishes can be pared away. The ball gets washed. There is nothing to peel so give em a good scrub.
They can be baked whole but tend to dry out which makes them tough to chew. Try wrapping some bacon around them.
Soup calls for dicing or slicing, toss into the pot for 30-45 minutes depending on size and how soft you like.
Boil as you would mashed potato. Smush, serve as mashed potato. Leave them unmashed and they are just as good. Serve with butter, gravy, sour cream, perhaps a touch of horseradish.
Left unmashed the leftovers do much justice to a pan of red flannel hash, or fry them up with some bacon grease.
If I'm making a couple pounds of mashed potato, I don't mind tossing in a half pound of turnip right in with the potatoes. I'll put the beater to them to whip smooth. If I can't find the beaters I have a hand masher that does the job fine. If they come out a little bit lumpy, they are even better. The flavor gives the potatoes just a little bite.
Add to a pot roast 20 minutes after you add the potatoes and carrots.
Gotta have turnip for a Yankee boiled dinner: ham, potato, carrot, onion, cabbage, parsnip and turnip. Any root crop will do.
Makes a good cream soup or bisque.

My grandmother would make a sandwich with leftover greens. The directions are explicit:
Take some bread that is stale and dry, the kind that even the chickens would turn their beaks up at. Scrape some cool butter across so the bread rolls up and falls apart. Cover with leftover, cold, well drained turnip greens from the night before, better yet, from 2 nights before. Wrap in aluminum foil that has been used a minimum of 14 times. Serve out in the field on a cold, soggy day.
What I'd give for one of those right now!

 
Ken Peavey
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Digging the root
Turnip root is right at the surface. The top of the ball is the crown from which the leaves spring. At the bottom of the ball is the root, perhaps 1/2" wide on bigger plants. There may be a few whispy roots here and there, but there is no strength to them. Grab the leaves at the bottom of the stem and lift. No need for a shovel. This is after I've taken greens repeatedly.
You can harvest the roots at any time. Ping pong ball is a fine size. I've seen them grow to 5-6" wide. In the first year they don't get woody as do kohlrabi.

 
John Saltveit
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I agree. Turnip greens are tragically underused. Mine are grown for the top, not the root. They are called 7 top. They are strong flavored, so I agree with other posters that vinegar, lemon juice, bacon, or other fat/oil is good as a balance. Some people who have never had Southern style greens don't know what they're missing.
John S
PDX OR
 
Rebecca Norman
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And turnips themselves are tragically underused too!

Turnips in Ladakh are so sweet and yummy, much like carrots, that in summer in a garden you'll often see these strange large white flowers on the ground. What they are is, you pull up a turnip, wipe off the dirt, and peel the skin down with a jab of your top teeth at several spots along the end of it, and then enjoy the sweet fresh root. And then you throw the fower-shaped skin on the ground and pull another one!
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