Turnips get lonely too – why not befriend one today?

Five perfect turnips!

It’s probably a lingering memory of the distant past – (Turnip Townsend etc) that too many of us associate turnips with cattle food, and – to be fair – your average supermarket turnip, weighing in at about 8 oz would probably be better inside a sheep than a human being, especially after being driven across the country for three days after it was dug. I’ve written about this before so I’ll try not to repeat myself, but today we pulled the first turnips from the polytunnel; a Japanese variety that we’ve never grown before. They must have heard me talking about pulling them out in favour of the tomatoes and while we were away for a couple of days they put in a supreme effort. Thanks guys – and now we’re going to eat you.

So here’s how to enjoy turnips at their best. Firstly don’t let them get bigger than a golf ball or they’ll get tough and smell like dogs’ breath. Secondly try them raw – they’re delicious at this size – and you can eat them whole like a radish which they remind me of except they’re meatier and sweeter. You can ferment them but I can’t say much about that because I’ve never tried but I can imagine the sweet/sour effect would be lovely even after a very quick fermentation. Thirdly you can steam them for two or three minutes. I steamed some today and the transformation in flavour was unbelievable – they tasted like a different vegetable and still not overwhelmingly stringy and cabbage like as their middle aged cousins do. You can roast them and /or glaze them as well – they’re a lovely catch crop that grows in no time and needs very little care, at least in the polytunnel. Outside they grow so fast they’d probably escape the caterpillars but you need to remember they’re brassicas and so if you’ve got club root in the ground you should grow them in fresh soil in a container. In fact containers are the ideal way of growing all of these fast growing crops. While I think if it, you could also eat the greens as salad greens or as cime di rapa (or turnip tops) with pasta and a bit of oil and parmesan. As we never said in Bristol – “gert lush!”

We had to curtail our trip to the Mendip Hills because the van roof sprang a leak and woke Madame at 3.00am with rain dripping on her nose. I think I know the cause and the solution, so we’ll resume the field trips as soon as we get some dry weather during which I can mend it. Meanwhile we’ve got to roll a stone up a mountain and get all the tender plants out of pots and root trainers and into the earth. Today we planted out the first batches of runner beans, french beans and ……. quick drum roll please …… borlotti beans. They looked a bit sad when we left them but we’re due (yet) more rain tomorrow and they’ll soon perk up.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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