Turnip health benefits and therapeutic value

Native to Eastern and Northern Europe, the turnip or Brassica napus is a root vegetable that has long been appreciated for its culinary appeal and for its health benefits, too.

Its edible leaves sprout into flowers that can reach 2 feet (60 cm) in height.

The turnip, a short story

Considered a “basic vegetable” like the carrot and leek,¬†turnip belongs to the same family as cabbage.

Native to Eastern Europe, the first historical hints that turnips were known go back to the neolithic ages. Together with parsnip, turnips are among the oldest cultivated food staple roots.

The root of the turnip is very fleshy, even if it grows in many very surprising shapes like round, elongated or flat.

Today, it is produced in most of the temperate climate countries.

Health benefits of turnip

  • Turnip is popular thanks to its emollient and softening properties. It is sometimes also used against chest diseases (chronic loaded airways, asthma, pertussis).
  • Are you familiar with the expression “to have turnip blood”? That’s a misnomer: turnip leaves are loaded with vitamin C, are excellent anti-scurvy agents (scurvy is a disease connected to a lack of vitamin C) and turnip is one of the first vegetables to be recommended in case of anemia. With high levels of vitamins and trace elements, turnip must find a place in the diets of persons recovering from operations or diseases, weak persons, or athletes.
  • The steamed pulp of the turnip, used externally, is excellent against frostbite, pain due to gout, dental neuralgia and breast engorgement due to lactation.

Did you know…?

  • Ingestion:

Herbal tea: either prepare a decoction from the root or a leaf infusion, both prepared with 3.5 oz (100 g) of plant material for 1 quart (1 liter) water.

Juice: blend the entire plant, and drink 3.5 oz (100 g) a day to fight anemia.

Syrup: boil one pound (500 g) of turnip in 2 quarts (2 liters) water. Filter, add 35 oz (1 kg) sugar and boil down to syrup. Against painful racking cough.

  • External use:

Warm poultice: use the flesh of the turnip.

Growing turnip

A part sun exposure is what is best for your turnips to grow well, since strong heat hollows them out and make them more fibrous. As for the soil, it should be loamy, even cool clay is fine as long as it doesn’t stay waterlogged.

Watch out for chalk, if there is too much of it, productivity and quality will decrease.

Smart tip about turnip

Persons with weak stomachs will prefer younger turnips, which are easier to digest since they contain less sulfur.

Potted turnips? If you have access to flat varieties, it is possible to plant them in pots at least 12 inches (30 cm) deep.

Watch out for small bugs! Cabbage fly, turnip fly, flea beetles, cabbage moth, turnip-sawfly and slugs… ouch! They all hurt!

Types and varieties of turnip

“Seasonal” varieties

  • Summer and spring turnips, to sow from March to June:

‘Norfolk’ (all white), ‘Tokyo F1’, ‘Red Milano’, ‘de Nancy’ (purple collar), ‘des Vertus Marteau’, ‘Jaune Boule d’Or’ (slightly sweet flesh), ‘Blanc des halles’.

Late varieties

  • Fall and winter turnips, sowing June to August:

‘Blanc globe a collet violet’, ‘Blanc dur d’hiver’.

Varieties good for forcing

  • Turnips for forcing to sow in February-March:

‘De Milan’ (bright pink collar), ‘Nantais’ (cylindrical and white), ‘Croissy’ (white and cylindrical)

Cooking turnip

turnipTurnips are eaten cooked, as a side dish to meat (fowl, duck) and also mashed in puree, radish and turnip leaf soup, beef stew, mixed vegetables. It can also be eaten raw, simply grated (better with young turnips).

Good to know: young leaves are prepared just like spinach leaves, or they can simply be added into soup!

Turnip nutritional content

21 kcal / 3.5 oz (100 g). Turnip has a lot of vitamin C, B3 and B6, fiber and trace elements (iron, potassium and calcium). It relaxes and is a diuretic.

Savory idea

Turnips are often spurned away by many, and it is truly unfair. Young and tender, with its cute pink cheeks, it is excellent when eaten young. In spring French lamb stew, presented around roasted chicken with carrots and turnips, or candied with white onions… Even steam cooking does wonders when you can lather it with butter. It will make your taste buds rejoice!

Blandine Merlin