Have you ever heard of baby turnips? It sounds like a normal carrot but is harvested in the spring. But the cute name hides a separate vegetable. In this article, we want to tell you a bit more about baby turnips, shed light on their name and give you a delicious recipe for cooking them.
What are baby turnips and where do they come from?
Baby turnips are an ancient vegetable. They were cultivated by classical civilisations, where they were a staple foodstuff. They also played an important role on the medieval menu. Only when the potato was introduced did they slide into obscurity. In recent years, however, they have received more attention and are now prized again as a regional, seasonal vegetable, just like other old vegetables, such as the parsnip and the Jerusalem artichoke. Baby turnips are a root vegetable and, as the name suggests, a sort of turnip. They are usually spherical and white in colour. They are sometimes also cylindrical and reddish, purplish or yellowish in colour, but this is rare. The Swiss German name, Mairübe, refers to the month in which they are harvested. Baby turnips are sown in early spring and can be harvested quite quickly, after only a few weeks. However, they are not just in season in May, but can be harvested from April until the end of June. The larger and more familiar turnips are harvested in the autumn; however, this is a different plant, although related.
What do baby turnips taste like?
Both the roots and the leaves of the baby turnip are edible. You can eat the root either raw or cooked. The skin can be removed or eaten. The root usually tastes a bit more pungent with the skin than without it. It tastes rather like a radish, but is less piquant. You can cook the leaves in the same way as spinach, and they are also really good in a fresh salad. There are no limits to how you can prepare or use the whole plant. You could also enjoy them as an occasional snack while at work.
What nutrients do they supply?
Baby turnips are a source of carbohydrates, protein, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, sodium and B-vitamins. What’s more, baby turnips also contain mustard oils, to which anti-inflammatory properties are ascribed. The oils are also responsible for the mildly pungent flavour. Baby turnip leaves are rich in vitamin C. The leaves and roots are therefore very healthy.
The turnips taste best when they are no bigger than a child’s fist – they usually have a diameter of up to five centimetres. Of course, they also taste best when fresh. So, if you have the chance, we recommend that you eat your baby turnips as soon as possible after buying them, or even better, after harvesting them. They will keep for up to three weeks in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. They can even be stored in a cool room (usually a cellar) for up to three months. If you want to keep them for longer, you will need to freeze them. To do this, you will first need to peel, slice, blanch and cool them. They should then keep for up to ten months.
Tip: baby turnips are great for planting in a pot. So if you don’t have a garden, but do have a balcony with some space, you can easily grow them. They are very easy to care for. They generally won’t grow as big in a pot as they will outside in a field, but that doesn’t matter. You can find out what the best sites for your baby turnips are and how to plant, care for and harvest them here.
A recipe idea
As we have already mentioned, baby turnips are suitable for many recipes and can be prepared in many different ways. Below we have chosen a salad that is wonderful in the warm weather.
Baby turnip salad
- 4–5 baby turnips
- 1/2 bunch of radishes
- 2 kohlrabi
- 1 sweet-sour apple
- 1 handful chopped hazelnuts
- 4 tablespoons white balsamic
- 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
- Mild mustard
- Salt, pepper, curry powder, parsley
- Firstly, wash your vegetables thoroughly. Then slice all of them, including the apple, into rings or strips. Alternatively, you could use a grater.
- Make the salad dressing by mixing the balsamic, rapeseed oil and mustard and adding salt, pepper, curry powder and parsley to taste.
- Finally, mix everything together in a bowl and sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts.
- You can also slice the turnip leaves finely and add them to the salad too.
For a warm dish, a baby turnip grain is an option. You can find a recipe here.
Bundesamt für Lebensmittelsicherheit und Veterinärwesen BLV. (o.D.). Mairübe. 5 am Tag. https://www.5amtag.ch/wissen/gemuese/mairube/?saison=5&lokalitaet=0
Paul, S., Geng, C. A., Yang, T. H., Yang, Y. P., & Chen, J. J. (2019). Phytochemical and health‐beneficial progress of turnip (Brassica rapa). Journal of food science, 84(1), 19-30. https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.14417
Plantura. (o.D.). Mairübe: Anbau, Ernte & Zubereitung der Navette. Plantura Magazin. https://www.plantura.garden/gemuese/mairuebe/mairuebe-pflanzenportrait
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