• Sally Miller, B. S., N. E.

Turnip for What?

How to use winter root vegetables for nutrient-rich meals

Roots bowl

Roots identification

Turnips: ( bottom) a member of the cruiferous vegetable family, which also includes cabbage and broccoli. Both the root and the greens of turnips are edible. Turnip greens are smaller and more tender than collards, and they have a slightly bitter flavor.

Rutabaga: (center) similar to turnips. They are a cross between turnips and cabbage.

Parsnips: (left center) a member of the Umbelliferae family which includes parsley, carrots and celery. It resembles the carrot in the shape of its long, fleshy, edible root, while its green leafy top is similar to that of Italian flat-leaf parsley. Parsnips are a creamy yellowish white color. If they have greens attached, you should remove them before storing. The greens will pull the moisture from the root and cause it to dry out. The greens are not edible.

Celery root: (right center) celery root and celery are members of the same family of vegetables, but celeriac or celery root is not the root of the vegetable you buy called celery. This vegetable is cultivated for its root and base instead of for its stalk or leaves.

Parsley root: (top) Parsley root is native to the Mediterranean that closely resembles a parsnip, but has a pale white color rather than creamy yellow. Quite often this root will have the parsley leaves attached to the top of the root, which can be used in the same manner as traditional parsley for garnishing and flavoring foods. The leaves on the root are similar to curly leaf parsley, but broader in width. It is also called Hamburg parsley or Dutch parsley.


The fresh vegetables most people shop for at the market are green beans, peas, squash, broccoli and cauliflower. How many times have you walked past the root vegetables and wondered what they may taste like and how to best prepare them?

And then how many times have you taken them home and did nothing with them, eventually throwing them away because it would be too much trouble to figure it out?

Every time I buy one of the more unusual root vegetables at the grocery store, the checkout clerk asks me what it is, what it tastes like and how to cook it.

I received a nice bunch of organic turnips, along with other gifts, in a gift bag from a good friend for Christmas. Most people would consider this an unusual gift. I, however, being a healthy-food explorer, found it to be a perfect gift.

These were not your average turnips, they were small, organic and red. After some investigation, I realized they were scarlet, red ball heirloom turnips grown in Ohio by an organic farmer. Special, indeed, and a perfect topic for this article.

Yams, beets, parsnips, turnips and rutabagas are the most common root vegetables found in our area. Celery root and parsley root have made an appearance recently. Burdock root is full of nutrition and is a liver detoxifier in Japan. If you can find it, buy it and keep it in cold storage.

Yams, beets and sometimes turnips can be found in the organic section. The others are generally in the conventional section and will need a lot of washing to remove dirt, wax and pesticides, as root vegetables are generally sprayed heavily if they are not organic. The pesticides will then stick to the wax.

Roots are some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world. While each root contains its own set of health benefits, they share many of the same characteristics. Because root vegetables grow underground they absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil.

They are packed with a high concentration of antioxidants; Vitamins C, B and A; and iron, helping to cleanse your system. Vitamin C helps the iron to be absorbed more readily. They also are a great source of Folate.

Root vegetables are also filled with slow-burning carbohydrates and fiber, which make you feel full and help regulate your blood sugar and digestive system.

This factor, plus the high nutrient values and low calories, make roots excellent for people who are trying to lose weight, or simply stay healthy. Root vegetables fight off disease, boost immunity and energy, and are delicious when prepared properly.

Most root vegetables are available year-round, but their peak season is fall through spring, with the exception of beets, which are best in the summer through fall.

When in-season, roots have a deeper, sweeter flavor and tend to be juicier. When the weather turns colder and the roots are still in the ground, the starch turns to sugar and the flavor improves immensely.

Selecting root vegetables is the opposite of selecting good fruit - the harder the better. They should be smooth and free of gashes and bruises. When choosing roots that come with leafy greens, make sure the greens are firm and bright.

While it is not necessary to have a root cellar to store roots, they are best stored in a cool, dark, humid room. When storing in the refrigerator, keep roots in a paper or plastic bag in the crisper, wrapped in a wet paper towel. Storing them uncovered causes them to soften and go bad quickly.

All roots should be rinsed and scrubbed well. Soak for 15 minutes in a vegetable soap solution, rinse and scrub again. A good vegetable soap to use is Dr. Bonners.

A lot of the nutrition is under the peel. If the root is organic, after washing, chop with the skin on. If it is not organic, remove the skin with a good peeler.

The recipe for Red Ball Turnips with Falalfel Crumbs and Creamy Sesame can be used as a side dish or an appetizer.

Turnips are often relegated to soup stock, along with a carrot, an onion and a sprig of parsley. If you want to win over a turnip hater, try to find small mild white or red turnips for this dish. If that is not possible, use regular turnips and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks.

If you like Middle Eastern food, you will love the flavors in this dish.

The Winter Root Stew combines flavors and roots to help you celebrate this time of year. The sage, rosemary and sweet roots are a feast of flavors and textures. It is a great way to use a variety of the roots available. You an throw in some yams or beets to add more color and variety.

Instead of ordinary mashed potatoes, try the mashed root version with roasted garlic. It is so much more nutritious than using regular potatoes. (Potatoes are not roots. They are tubers. They do not provide the same benefit of slow-burning carbohydrates.)

The next time you are at the grocery store, linger a little longer in front of the root vegetable section. You will know what they are. Give one or two a try, reap the nutritious benefits and share the recipe with others.

Root soup


Winter Root Stew

Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4-6


1 ½ cups peeled, diced carrots

1 ½ cups peeled, diced celery root

1 cup peeled, diced parsnips

1 cup peeled, diced turnips

1 cup peeled, diced rutabagas

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon allspice

Pinch of ground nutmeg

½ cup diced onions

2 teaspoons ground sage

½ cup dry white wine (optional)

8 cups Vegetable Stock of your choice

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the carrots, celery root, parsnips, turnips and rutabaga in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the pepper, the allspice, and the nutmeg. Transfer the vegetables to a sheet pan in a single layer and roast until they are fork-tender, 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large stock pot over high heat until it ripples. Add the onions and sage and allow to brown, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Deglaze with the wine and cook until it is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the roasted vegetables. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the rosemary to the stew, remove the pot from the heat, and serve.

Turnips with falafel crumbs and creamy sesame

Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

Falafel Crumbs:

1 cup chickpea flour

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon curry powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

⅓ cup water


1 pound small turnips, greens removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Creamy Sesame

¼ cup vegan mayo

¼ cup tahini

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons water


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To make the falafel crumbs, whisk together the chickpea flour, oil, cumin, curry powder, salt, pepper, coriander, and ⅓cup water in a medium bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes.

Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a sheet pan and bake until it turns golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Separate the mixture into rough chunks and return to the oven to bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Let cool again, then crumble into ¼-inch crumbs. If you’re not proceeding with the rest of the recipe immediately, store crumbs in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F if it’s not still on from making the crumbs.

Cut any larger turnips in half through the stem to achieve uniform size for even roasting. Toss the turnips in a medium bowl with the oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Transfer the turnips to a sheet pan and roast until fork-tender and the edges start to crinkle, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the creamy sesame by whisking together the vegan mayo, tahini, vinegar, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons water in a medium bowl until smooth and creamy.

Use a large spoon to smear the creamy sesame neatly on a serving plate.

Arrange the roasted turnips on top of the creamy sesame, sprinkle with the falafel crumbs, and serve.

Creamy Root Mash

Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes

4 Servings


3 large or 6 small turnips, quartered

1 large onion, quartered

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 small bulb garlic, roasted

½ pound parsnips or parsley root (or a combination)

½ cup almond or coconut milk

½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Toss turnips and onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread onto a baking sheet.

Cut stem end off garlic bulb, drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, and wrap with a sheet of foil lined with parchment paper. Place on baking sheet next to the turnips and onions. Bake vegetables for 30-40 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile, put parsnips, parsley root or both, in a saucepan, cover with filtered water, and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook until fork tender. Drain and set aside. The peel will lift off like paper.

Heat butter, milk, and rosemary in a large saucepan over very low heat, keep warm until you are ready to mash the vegetables.

Remove vegetables from the oven and transfer to a large bowl. Add cooked, peeled, chopped, parsnips and parsley root. Squeeze roasted garlic from blub over the vegetables. Add the remaining olive oil. Mash everything together with a potato masher until well combined.

Slowly add warmed milk mixture, stirring to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. This mixture does not have to be smooth, but can have some texture and lumps.

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