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.