At its heart, Buttered Veg is a celebration of vegetables. Today, we are celebrating Baby Turnips and Greens. These, my friends, are (slightly) bitter beauties.
Turnips are one of those vegetables that don’t exactly have a good reputation.
I think my earliest memory about turnips is from my dad and his brothers. They always used to joke that they were so poor growing up that all they had to eat were turnip tops. Haha. They didn’t even have the turnip roots. Only the leftovers!
The story is embellished further, so they might add that food was so scarce the boys would steal the turnip tops from each others’ plates. Weren’t those the days!
Turnip roots, along with their tops (also known as turnip greens), are pungent, but this taste becomes milder with cooking. They are also slightly bitter, although not overly so like dandelion greens are.
Baby Turnips Go With Everything!
A bit of bitter for dinner can be a welcome change from the usual sweet, sour, and salty foods we eat most days.
I love this vegetable combo, along with an Indian bean or lentil dish, or even my Smoky Oregano Black Beans. It would also be great with polenta or risotto, or in a rice bowl, where a balance of bitter pungency offers a pleasing variation.
For another recipe featuring baby turnips, try ‘Chewy’ Pasta With Succulent Arugula Pesto and Baby Turnips
The Vegetable Mix
Turnips are hearty critters. They grow in cold climates, so Canadians, Northern Europeans, North Indians, and Americans should all be familiar with this vegetable.
In this dish, I recommend sourcing baby turnips. Their texture is more delicate and airy than regular turnips, and the skins don’t need to be peeled. If you can’t source the baby ones, you will have to peel the turnips after parboiling them, as the skins can be tough.
As for the greens, you can use any type you have in the fridge that you would normally cook, including turnip tops if you can get them.
Kale is the most plentiful and obvious option, but there is also Swiss chard, collard greens, green zucchini, beet greens, radish greens, and so on. I generally enjoy a mix of these, with kale and something like radish greens being pretty popular in my books.
I included leeks in this recipe, too, which is also a type of cooking green, onion-style. Leeks have a wonderfully sweet and mild onion flavor that helps to marry the baby turnips and leafy greens together. If you don’t have leeks, green onions also work well.
Foods That Double As Preventative Medicine
I am sure that some readers will be pleased to see the inclusion of turmeric in this recipe. Others may wonder why it’s there.
I didn’t understand this piece of advice at the time, but through experimentation I have realized turmeric really does work beautifully in most vegetable dishes, and this is particularly true for greens.
Turmeric adds a dimension of underlying complexity to the vegetal flavors, as well as a preventative healing effect.
So this dish is packed with preventative medicinal properties.
Alkalizing and detoxifying baby turnips, cooked with nutrient-dense greens—flavored with anti-inflammatory turmeric, antibiotic garlic, and antibacterial lime juice—will supercharge any dinner menu.
After all my talk, I hope you feel excited to try this dish. Don’t worry that someone won’t like it. I promise you, my braised baby turnip and greens with turmeric, garlic, and lime juice, is not only healthy, it tastes amazing!
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Recipe for Braised Baby Turnips and Greens With Turmeric, Garlic, and Lime Juice
- For this recipe you will need a medium saute pan with a lid for braising the vegetables.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- pinch of asafetida, optional, see notes
- 1 cup leeks, sliced into half-inch pieces (or green onion)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste (portion 1/4 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon)
- 5-6 baby turnips, parboiled and sliced into half-inch wedges
- 6 cups winter greens, such as kale, washed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons water, or as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Prepare your vegetables
- Bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil in a saucepan. Add whole turnips and simmer until cooked two-thirds of the way, about 5–10 minutes. Drain water. When turnips are cool enough to handle, slice them into half-inch wedges. If they are baby white-skinned turnips, the skins should be thin, and there will be no need to peel. If the skins have a purple tinge, peel them before slicing. Set aside until needed.
- Remove kale or other greens from stems. Chop, and plunge into a bowl filled with cold water. Swish the greens around with your fingers to remove any dirt, and set aside until needed.
- Follow the same preparation with the leeks. Slice leeks into 6 inch lengths, and then in half lengthwise. Slice each half lengthwise again. Chop into half-inch pieces. Plunge into a bowl of cold water and swish around with your fingers. Set aside until needed.
Cook the braised baby turnips and greens
- Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until just starting to brown. Add turmeric and optional asafetida directly to the oil, and stir to release their aromas. Add leeks by removing them from the water with your hands and transferring to the skillet. The water will cause the oil in the skillet to sizzle, so be a little careful. I use this method because the bit of water kickstarts the cooking process, and any dirt on the leeks will have settled to the bottom of the bowl and remains there. It is the quickest way I have found to wash, and cook vegetables. Sauté leeks until golden brown.
- Add the prepared turnips and kale, along with a couple tablespoons of water. Stir well and cover the skillet. Braise the vegetables for about 3 minutes and stir. Cook for 3 more minutes and test for doneness. Taste, and add more salt if needed.
- Transfer vegetables to a serving dish and sprinkle with fresh lime juice.