If you are looking for answers about the humble, earthy turnip and what they taste like, you have come to the right place. We have rounded up all you need to know about turnips!
Turnips may be the least known of the cruciferous vegetables!
However, they are available year-round and are favorites among home gardeners.
Turnips, a root vegetable, do not require a long time to grow and ripen, so in mild climates, you can sow them in early spring or late summer for two full root crop harvests.
Keep in mind; turnips are not rutabagas, which you can refer to as the Swedish turnip.
It is easy to spot the “purple top white globe” turnip at the grocery store, which is most common, but surprisingly, they have over 30 different turnip varieties!
Turnips are a hidden gem, especially in the low-carb community.
They make an excellent replacement for potatoes in recipes.
Turnips are low in calories and have vitamins A, K, and B-6.
The turnip greens, also edible, contain vitamin A, C, K, calcium, folic acid, and manganese.
What’s a turnip?
Glad you asked!
I love any opportunity to introduce a new food to my readers!
You can categorize turnips as cruciferous vegetables like the more common vegetables, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts!
A definition is always a good place to start.
Britannica explains, “The turnip, (Brassica rapa, variety rapa), is a hardy biennial plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae), cultivated for its fleshy roots and tender growing tops.”
The greens, as well as the root, can be safely eaten.
The easiest ones to find are purple-top turnips with white skins and a purple top.
Scarlet turnips have a bright red color, similar to a large red radish, which you can find in farmers’ markets.
The baby turnip is a specialty variety about one inch in diameter.
They can be pink, white, gold, or purple-topped and are the best choice for eating raw.
What do turnips taste like?
Ah, the most challenging question to nail down, turnip taste.
Taste is challenging to convey person to person.
But there are some things I can share that may help.
Unlike other vegetables that taste similarly no matter their ripeness, the age of the turnip will determine its taste and the way you prepare them.
Let’s start with the baby or young turnips, which are tender and sweet, very much like carrots.
Some would say they are crunchy and tangy.
The almost ripe adult turnips are good to use raw if they are less than two inches in diameter and probably won’t need to peel.
The full-grown turnip will taste bitter if consumed raw, so consider yourself forewarned on that topic!
Once cooked, the inside flesh of the turnip root after you peel them has a slightly sweet flavor which is mild and has a peppery taste.
Some compare it to beets but not so “earthy.”
Another way to describe the taste is that it is spicier and woodier, which is due to the gritty texture they have, so they need to be peeled and baked.
Imagine a mix of cauliflower, cabbage, and radish rolled into one, which would be a turnip taste.
These full-grown turnips do taste like potatoes which is why you can substitute them in recipes easily.
The best texture and taste are the ones that are two-three inches across.
To reduce the chance of bitter turnips, notice a yellow line about a quarter of an inch into the root and peel them just beyond it.
Yes, it may seem like too much, but trust me, it is not.
The larger and more mature turnips will have a stronger woody or bitter taste.
What do turnip greens taste like?
In some cultures or regions worldwide, turnip greens are as a staple as collard greens or mustard greens.
The “greens” part is specifically the stem and leafy green part of the turnip.
If they are still attached, they should not be yellow or wilted but rather deep green and crisp.
Turnip greens tend to be sweeter than collard greens and not near as spicy as mustard greens!
They are peppery, but their flavor becomes much milder when cooked.
Removing the stems will make them easier to eat and enjoy when raw or cooked.
Start with a beautiful batch of greens by removing any discolored spots from the leaves.
Salt is your friend when cooking turnip greens as it also balances out the potential bitterness.
Turnips vs. Potatoes
There are several ways turnips and potatoes are different, like their taste, vitamin content, and carbohydrate count.
Turnips tend to be a bit bitter, but what is hilarious is if you cut and boil them with a cut potato, it will soak up that bitterness.
Turnips contain vitamin C, whereas potatoes have vitamin K.
On the carbohydrates shakedown, one cup of turnips contains contains fewer than white potatoes, generally.
There are also several ways turnips and potatoes are similar.
They both have fiber.
They also both grow in the ground and should be thoroughly washed before consumption.
In many ways, they can serve as substitutes for each other.
You can swap turnips for potatoes, or vice versa, in many recipes like soups or stews, mashed salads, or baked fries or wedges!
Can you eat a raw turnip?
Both the root and the greens!
The baby turnip variety is perfect for eating raw as it has a sweeter taste.
They are perfect for slicing or dicing into small cubes for salads like any other raw vegetable.
Additionally, they can also be grated and used in a slaw recipe.
As a snack, they can be peeled and sliced as you would an apple and eaten with your favorite dip!
You can also use turnip greens in salad beds, or wraps, or sandwiches.
I highly recommend removing the stems before using raw as they can be a bit much on the texture and chewing factor!
It is easy to do by either holding the stem and tearing the leaf off or folding it in half and using a sharp knife to cut the stem away.
Now you are on your way to adding great nutrients into your salad or sandwich!
Ways to use turnips
Start with a good scrubbing before preparing to use turnips.
Turnips are pretty versatile and you can use them in many, many different ways!
Young turnip roots are eaten raw in salads, and they are perfect for pickling because of their peppery flavor!
Turnips can be sliced, diced, or spiralized, giving them multiple uses in salads, adding a pleasing crunch.
The turnip root can be baked whole, cut into wedges or french fries, boiled with salt, roasted with olive oil for stews, or mashed.
Turnips go well with the flavors of coriander, cumin, mustard, and sage, complimenting bacon and apples.
If they have been cooked or quickly blanched and you want to store some for another season, you can freeze them for up to eight months.
Turnip recipes abound from the perfect side dish vegetable or refreshing salad to complement the meal.
Turnips are also a great alternative to using potatoes in traditional recipes if wanting to lower carb counts.
The turnip greens or baby varieties and full-grown turnips are quite edible and full of nutrition.
They can be enjoyed raw in salads or sandwiches, and you can also cook them.
When cooking, most enjoy turnip greens sauteed or braised.
Can you eat turnip skin?
Yes and no!
Nice definitive answer, eh?
Yes, you can safely enjoy baby turnip skins.
Simply wash them off well since they are grown in the dirt, slice off the actual root, and slice or dice or quarter for your recipe.
No, you shouldn’t eat the skin of the larger, fully mature turnips because they have a sharp aftertaste, which is very displeasing in terms of taste.
But no worries!
You can peel turnips the exact same way you would to a potato with a vegetable peeler!
They are vegetables, after all!
Give a look at this list of Turnip Salad Recipes too!
The bottom line
I encourage you to give turnips a try so you can determine if turnip taste is one you enjoy.
If so, it is always friendly as a chef to have a new swap trick up your sleeve!
Raw Turnip Salad
Want to enjoy your turnips without breaking a sweat? Try this easy raw turnip salad recipe that you can make within 10 minutes!
- 3 peeled and grated medium turnips
- 3 peeled and grated carrots
- ½ c chopped parsley
- 1 c raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 squeeze of lemon juice
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 pinch of sea salt
- Mix your turnips, parsley, carrots, and pumpkin seeds in a salad bowl.
- Squeeze in the lemon juice and olive oil into your salad then sprinkle a pinch of salt to taste.
- Toss then enjoy!