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All about “Turnip”, a low calorie but rich vegetable

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The turnip is a vegetable of the cruciferous family, bulbous in shape and with white flesh; its leaves are also edible. It is native to the Mediterranean basin but there are also some varieties cultivated in Asia for hundreds of years. Often confused with rutabaga, it has a more neutral taste, it is easy to cook and goes well with a multitude of other foods.

Characteristics :

  • Source of fiber;
  • Low in calories;
  • Source of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus;
  • Cancer protection;
  • Contains antioxidants.

Turnip, what is it?

Turnip identity card

  • Origin: Eastern Europe;
  • Family: Cruciferae;
  • Type: Cabbage;
  • Flavor: Sweet;
  • Color: White and purple;
  • Season: October to May.

Turnip characteristics

During its harvest, the turnip is composed of oblong leaves and fleshy roots of shapes (spherical, elongated, flat) and of various colors (pink, white, black, …).

Differences with rutabaga

Turnips and rutabaga are often confused because they are believed to be of the same species. However, these are two very different species. The turnips are usually white, while the rutabagas are mostly yellow. They are also differentiated by their leaves: smooth for the rutabaga and rough and hairy for the turnip.

Word from the nutritionist

The ideal is to quickly clean the turnips and consume them raw to make the most of their benefits.

Nutritional values

Per 100g of raw turnip:

Nutrients                                                              Quantities                                                              
Protein 0.9 g
Fat 0.1g
Carbohydrates 4.63 g
Water 91.87 g
Fibers 1.8g
Vitamin C 21 mg
Vitamin B1 0.04 mg
Vitamin B6 0.09 mg
Potassium 191 mg
Magnesium 11 mg
Phosphorus 27 mg
What is a “portion of turnip and rutabaga” worth?
Weight / volume    Turnip, boiled, drained, 82 g / 125 ml Rutabaga, raw, 74 g / 125 ml Rutabaga, boiled, drained, 90 g / 125 ml
Calories 18 27 35
Protein 0.6g 0.9 g 1.2g
Carbohydrates 4.2g 6.0 g 7.9 g
Fat 0.1g 0.2g 0.2g
Dietary fiber 1.6g 1.8g 1.6g

12 benefits of turnip: why eat it?

  1. Turnip is a source of fiber that will stimulate intestinal transit.
  2. Rich in water and low in lipids, the turnip is low in calories which allows it to be consumed as part of a weight loss.
  3. Turnips are a source of potassium. In the body, potassium is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus promoting digestion.
  4. Turnips are a source of magnesium which participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system.
  5. Turnips are a source of vitamin C. The role that vitamin C plays in the body goes beyond its antioxidant properties; it also contributes to the health of bones, cartilage, teeth and gums. In addition, it protects against infections, promotes the absorption of iron from plants and accelerates healing. A source of fiber.
  6. The richness of the turnip in antioxidants makes it possible to prevent certain cancers, to protect the organism against oxidative stress and the signs of aging.
  7. Raw, turnip is a source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.
  8. Boiled rutabaga is a source of iron for humans only. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of vegetable origin is less absorbed by the organism than the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.
  9. Rutabaga is a source of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH. Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.
  10. Rutabaga is a source of manganese while raw turnip is a source for women only. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals.
  11. Rutabaga is a source of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, this vitamin is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we ingest. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.
  12. Rutabaga is a source of vitamin B6. Also called pyridoxine, this vitamin is part of coenzymes which participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the synthesis (manufacture) of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to transport more oxygen. Vitamin B6 is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the good functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells and in the modulation of hormone receptors.

Choose your turnip well

To choose a turnip well, its skin must be very white without bruising or stains.

The different varieties

There are around thirty varieties of turnips in France. They usually bear the name of their place of origin. Variable in shape and color, they are divided into three main families: early varieties, seasonal varieties and late varieties.

Keep well

Freshly cut, the leaves will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Prime them as soon as possible after purchase, as they tend to wilt.

The roots can be stored for a very long time in the cellar or in the refrigerator.
In Europe, sauerkraut is made with sliced ​​roots. You can also “sauerkraut” the leaves.

Turnip preparation

How to cook it? How to match it?

Rutabaga and turnip are prepared like potatoes: mashed, fried, potato chips, baked, roasted, sautéed, etc. Serve mashed potatoes from various mixed root vegetables, seasoning them with a little nutmeg and chopped parsley.

  • Frozen turnips: cut the root into 3 mm thick slices. Heat honey and butter until the caramelizes, deglaze with a little water, then add the turnip or rutabaga slices. Cook until tender, stirring frequently.
  • The “boiled”, or stew, is unthinkable without rutabaga or turnip.
  • The two vegetables are eaten raw, peeled, then sliced ​​or cut into cubes, seasoned with a mustard vinaigrette. You can also grate them and add them to a carrot or coleslaw salad.
  • Duck or rabbit with turnips is a classic of French cuisine.
  • Sauté very young turnips with their leaves and serve them with butter or cream.
  • Stuffed turnips: blanch the turnips for about ten minutes, remove part of the flesh and mix it with potato pulp and a mushroom sauce. In Italy, it is stuffed with risotto and it is browned after having sprinkled with parmesan. In France, we like to stuff it with sausage meat seasoned with thyme and rosemary and then cook it in cider.
  • Foam: cook turnips and make a puree, to which will be added egg whites and potato starch. Salt and pepper. Put in a mold and cook in a double boiler.
  • The seeds can be used as a seasoning, like those of mustard. Sprouted, they add spice to salads and sandwiches.

In Japan, slice the turnip and marinate it in a mixture of sugar and rice vinegar, while, in Arab countries, cut the pink-skinned turnip into sticks which you marinate in a preparation for water and vinegar base. The flesh then takes on a very special reddish color. In either case, it is served as a condiment.

In the southern United States, the leaves are prepared by cooking them with diced bacon or smoked ham. This preparation is then added to soups and stews, especially if these dishes contain barley and beans, or spicy sausages.

In Germany, the turnip is grated and cooked like sauerkraut with juniper berries and sausage.


Irritable bowel syndrome

Some people with irritable bowel syndrome may experience intolerance to certain foods to varying degrees. Intolerance sometimes happens to crucifers such as turnip or rutabaga. By limiting or avoiding fermentable foods like those of the cruciferous family, people with this syndrome can alleviate their symptoms (abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea). When the symptoms are mild, or during so-called “remission” periods, it is sometimes possible to gradually reintegrate these foods, always respecting individual tolerance (see our Irritable Bowel Syndrome sheet).

Interaction of crucifers with certain drugs

Indoles, compounds found naturally in cruciferous plants, can in particular reduce the action of certain analgesics such as products containing acetaminophen (Tylenol, Atasol, Tempra) and other drugs combining a mixture of active ingredients (Benylin , Contac, Robaxacet). People who consume a large amount of cruciferous plants should take this into consideration.

History of food

The term “turnip” first appeared in the 13th century in the form of “turnip”; it comes from the old French “nave”, masculine noun inherited from the Latin napus. The use has been abandoned in order to avoid confusion with “nave”, feminine noun meaning “ship”.

It is generally said that the turnip comes from the Mediterranean basin. However, several vegetable plants belonging to the same species (Brassica rapa) are native to China. According to one of the hypotheses currently studied, there would rather be two independent lines for this species. The first would come from the more western regions (Europe, India and Central Asia) and it would include the turnip, the rutabaga and the shuttle (today called rapeseed or canola); the second, would rather come from East Asia, and would include the many varieties of “Chinese cabbage” cultivated for their roots or their leaves: ta-tsoi, hon tsai tai, mibuna, mizuna, komatsuna, pac choi, bok choi, pai lo lo, etc.

The Greeks and Romans knew many varieties of turnip. In the first century of our era, Pliny the Elder describes, under the names of rapa and napus, turnips of elongated shape, flat and round. At the same time, the vegetable was used in France as food for both humans and farm animals. Later, it will become an important food for the English who will boil or roast its roots, cook its leaves and prepare its young stems in salads.

The turnip will be introduced to America by Jacques Cartier in 1541. With lettuce and cabbage, it will be the first old world vegetable to be grown in New France. The Amerindians will adopt it and will quickly cultivate it.

For further

Although the leaves of all types of turnip or rutabaga can be eaten, some varieties have been crossed especially for this use. The “Shogoin”, in particular, whose roots are also edible, and the “Seven Top”, of which only the leaves are consumed. They are sown early in spring, then at the end of summer, for a second harvest. Space the plants 5 to 10 cm apart.

If we find the taste of turnip or rutabaga too pronounced, we can try to cultivate the variety “Oasis”, a hybrid whose flavor, in the opinion of its breeder, vaguely recalls that of melon.

Unlike other varieties, “Shogoin” flowers and forms its seeds from the first year. We can therefore easily harvest the seeds and sow them the following year, which will allow us to have a good amount of greenery, the plant being very prolific. Treat the seeds with hot water (66 ° C for 25 to 30 minutes), cool them with cold water and dry them.

Turnips mature in 40 to 80 days, depending on the varieties and the size at which you want to harvest them. For rutabagas, it takes at least 90 days. It is therefore recommended to sow them no later than three months before the first large gels.

The cabbage fly is the main predator to fear in the vegetable patch. She lays her eggs at the foot of the plants; the larva grows by digging tunnels in the root and feeding on the flesh of the vegetable. Various solutions exist to combat it.
– Sow turnips and rutabagas alternately with lettuce, because the fly does not like the smell of the latter.
– Cover the seedlings with light agrotextiles allowing as much light as possible (85%) and leave it throughout the growth of the plants. This solution is suitable for cool weather, but in hot weather it will have to be removed, at the risk of the plants burning. Replace the fabric as soon as the weather has cooled down.
– A weekly watering with detergent (wood ash diluted in water) is very effective both against the cabbage fly and against various other unwanted insects that may attack it.

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