The turnip (Brassica rapa) is a member of the mustard (Brassicaceae) family and is related to radishes, cauliflower, and cabbage. Tracing the history of turnips is difficult, however they are thought to have originated in middle to eastern Asia. The flesh of the root is white as is the skin except for the top, which is often purple, yellow or green depending on exposure to the sun.
Like other root vegetables, turnips grow best in cool weather. Farmers in the Prescott area grow turnips year-round using season extension techniques like shade during the hottest part of the summer and row cover during the coldest part of the winter. Turnips harvested in the fall through spring will have the best crunch and mild taste. Turnips are a juicy and refreshing snack on hot days.
The root and greens have been used as fodder (feed) for livestock for centuries. Turnips mature quickly, are well adapted to many climates and have proven to be a valuable energy source for animals. Some farmers also use turnips as cover crops—plants that protect and increase the biodiversity of the soil—because of their ability to aerate the soil, creating space for future plants, especially in heavy soils like clay.
Turnips are a good source of vitamin B6, folate, calcium, potassium and copper, and a great source of vitamin C, dietary fiber and manganese. Both the root and greens are enjoyed in culinary dishes all over the world. In Japan and Lebanon, pickled turnips are popular. In Turkey, turnips are added to a spiced carrot juice, served ice cold. There are as many ways of preparing turnips as there are cultures that eat them. Turnips are fantastic either sliced or grated in salads and can be roasted, boiled, fermented, stewed, sautéed, mashed, used in a stir fry, and eaten raw like an apple.