Turnips a workhorse among winter vegetables

Dec. 15, 2012 @ 09:50 PM

As the manager of the Durham Farmers’ Market, one of the most frequently asked questions that I get is: "Are there any vegetables available at the Market during the winter?”

My answer: an emphatic "Yes!”

Since the Market started holding winter hours, many farmers have shifted their focus to growing crops during the winter months.  Throughout the winter there is a wide selection of greens, root vegetables and storage crops. In early winter and spring, there is also plenty of broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

Today, let’s talk a little bit about turnips, the true workhorse of a winter farmers’ market.  Turnips are very fast growing and cold-hardy vegetables that are related to mustards, radishes and rutabegas.  Farmers can grow them easily and harvest them throughout the winter. 

Turnips, once established, will hold in the ground during the cold months. Farmers can harvest only what they need to harvest and leave the rest in the ground until they need to harvest more. Turnips, unlike other crops that need to be harvested immediately upon maturity, won't go bad when left in the ground during the winter months. Turnips, will just sit and wait in nature's refrigerator

If you are interested in eating locally grown food year-round, turnips may become a winter staple.  Recently, I learned that turnips and sweet potatoes roast at approximately the same rate. To roast, dice the turnips and sweet potatoes into the same size, coat with 1-2TB olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add a sprig of rosemary.  Spread on a cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (or until you can stick a fork in them).

Roasting turnips brings out their sweetness and subtle flavor.

Recently, chef Katie Coleman from Durham Spirits Company held a cooking demonstration at the market and made Honey Glazed Carrots and Turnips. This recipe will turn anyone into a turnip lover!

Honey Glazed Carrots and Turnips

Chef Katie Coleman, www.durhamspiritscompany.com

Serves 4


8 large carrots, peeled and sliced

2 turnips, peeled and sliced

4 T butter

2 T honey

8 sprigs of thyme

½ lemon, juiced

ground ginger, salt and pepper

Melt butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan or skillet. Add honey and 1/4 C of water. Bring to a simmer. Add the turnips, carrots, thyme and salt well. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat until tender. Add ground ginger and re-season with salt and pepper. Cook until carrots are coated with glaze and finish with lemon juice. Serve.

Erin Kauffman is market manager of the Durham Farmers' Market. You can contact here at 919-667-3099 or at info@durhamfarmersmarket.com.