For centuries the turnip has provided sustenance for peasants and livestock, often thwarting starvation in the lean winter months. What does the lowly turnip get in exchange? It hardly garners second-rate status. Times are a changing. Newer varieties are raising are the bar. Two Varieties, Hakurei and Scarlet Queen Red Stems, stand at the top of my list.
Hakurei is a small white turnip with short tops. The pure white flesh has a delicate sweetness and smooth texture. Hakurei, a quick maturing variety, is excellent for spring and fall sowings. The skin is nearly non-existent and doesn’t require peeling like some of the older varieties. As they age or get frosted, some of the smoothness transitions into a crispy texture. The short hairless greens are fine when picked young, but toughen quickly.
The majority of my Hakurei crop is eaten raw, often not making it out of the garden. If you are a radish lover and haven’t tried raw turnips, you should. A raw Hakurei is like a radish but with much more substance and refinement.
Scarlet Queen Red Stems is bright red turnip with tall leafy stems. The crisp white flesh, often splashed with red, has a subtle sweetness and a bit of spice from the skin. It may be necessary to peel the larger sized turnips.
The tall tender hairless foliage with thick succulent red stems is why Scarlet Queen stands out from the other varieties. The mild flavor and excellent cooked texture makes this one of our favorite greens. Good for either spring or fall sowings, the greens hold much better when maturing into the cool weather of autumn.
Both varieties are best eaten when two to three inches across. Successive sowings every few weeks will ensure a steady supply of tender roots.
So don’t look down on the turnip. This multi-use crop could keep you from starving in the leaner months and taste good at the same time.