Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Hakurei- Turnip Royalty
Given the choice between turnip greens and collards, i always chose collards. Turnip greens are too spicy and kind of slimy when cooked. The root of the traditional purple top variety (refers to the top of the root not the leaves) is pretty bland. About 8 years ago i came across a turnip variety in Johnnys Seed catalog called Hakurei. They called it a salad variety with a sweet flavor. It was supposed to take 38 days to get a crop. I decided to give it a try. I am sure glad i did! In 6 weeks there were these snow white golf ball sized roots of pure goodness. Definitely not your grandma's turnips.
I met a gentleman at a conference at Will Allen's Growing Power in Milwaukee who was also growing them for market. He raved about them too. He said at first people would tell him that they didn't like turnips and walk on by. He was able to convince a few people to give them a try. Once they did they came back for more and told their friends to try them too. Today, Hakurei turnips can be found at most farmers markets around the country.
They are a very versatile vegetable. In Japan, where they originated, they are pickled in a salt brine with seaweed. We eat them raw in salads, steamed, put them in soups and stews, and, my favorite, roasted. Roasting brings out their delicate sweetness.
I make successive plantings all year round. In about 6 weeks they will be about golf ball sized, eventually getting up to tennis ball size when mature. I seed them in 3 inch bands. It is best to thin the seedlings to about 3 " apart to get the biggest roots but i often never get around to it and they just grow on top of one another. I pull the biggest ones and let the others continue to grow. One planting can be harvested for up to 2 months, longer in the fall and winter. The temperature dropped to 15º a couple of weeks ago and most of them roots were not damaged even though they grow right on top of the soil.
If you are a turnip green fan i would suggest growing another variety. Hakurei does not produce a heavy top and the foliage tends to degrade over time. Johnnys carries another "salad" turnip variety called Scarlet Queen. I grew her side by side with Hakurei and was not impressed with her at all.
Hakurei is the King of turnips here at the Funny Farm.
How to Roast- Pre-heat your oven to 425º .Wash the turnips and remove the tops to be eaten separately. Cut them in half length-wise. pour some olive oil into a roasting dish and pace the turnips cut side down. Drizzle a little more oil over the top and roast for about 45 minutes or until fork tender and the bottoms have caramelized (turned brown).
If you have any left over the next day you can make fried turnip cakes. Mash them, combine them with very finely diced onion and an egg. Spoon the mixture into an iron skillet with melted butter. Fry until golden brown. Flip over and fry the other side. Remove from the pan and inhale. Repeat. Heavenly!
TURNIP BLUE CHEESE SLAW
5 LARGE WHITE SALAD TURNIPS
1/4 CUP CRUMBLED BLEU CHEESE
3 TABLESPOONS MAYONNAISE OR GREEK YOGURT + 1 TEASPOON DIJON MUSTARD
1 TABLESPOON HONEY
1 1/2 TABLESPOONS RED WINE OR BALSAMIC VINEGAR
SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE
Thinly slice turnips and radishes into strips. You can also grate them. Combine in a bowl with the blue cheese. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add to the vegetables. Let it sit for an hour so the flavors can marry. Serve at room temperature.