Tantalizing Turnips

— Written By and last updated by

IMG_4914Turnips are one of the oldest known root vegetables and were an important crop during the Middle Ages. Both the Greek and Romans thought highly of turnips. In addition to their food value, turnips have been used as a wrinkle remover and as a treatment for frostbite, gout, arthritis and measles.

Turnips belong to the cabbage family and are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, folate and dietary fiber. One cup of cooked turnips contains only 33 calories.

When shopping for turnips, look for those with unblemished skin that are no more than 3 inches in diameter. Before cooking turnips, always scrub them with a brush and rinse with plenty of water, even if you plan to peel them.

Store turnips in the refrigerator vegetable crisper or in a plastic bag. Remove the green tops before storing. Turnips contain more water than other root vegetables, so they deteriorate more quickly. They will last about 1 week in the vegetable crisper.

In addition to being healthy and tasty, turnips are easy to prepare. Simply use turnips any way you would a potato. Try them baked, boiled, steamed, roasted or in stews, soups or stir-fries. And if you thought only potatoes can be mashed, think again. Turnips can also be shredded to replace cabbage in cole slaw.

One of the most basic ways to cook turnips is to slice them and boil in salted water for 10 minutes. To microwave, combine turnip slices with a few tablespoons of water or vegetable stock in a covered bowl and cook on high for 3 minutes. Careful, the bowl will be hot. Consider adding apples to these recipes for a sweeter flavor.

Slow roasting turnips highlights their natural sweetness and tones down the “cabbage” flavor.  Coat chunks of turnips with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary. Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. If you feel like mixing it up, adding carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, or other root vegetables are the perfect complement to turnips.

Turnip Facts:

  • The longer you cook a turnip, the more bitter it gets.
  • The Pennsylvania Dutch make a cole slaw using turnips, as well as one with cabbage.
  • Turnips were first planted in America in 1609.
  • Turnips were probably served at the first Thanksgiving.
  • Large turnips were the first Halloween Jack-o-lanterns.
  • Young tender turnips do not need to be peeled, but peel older turnips and trim off the tops and tap roots.

Sautéed Turnips with Spinach and Raisins (pdf)


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 medium turnips, peeled and cut into matchsticks
½ cup raisins
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
10 oz. fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper


In a sauté pan, heat the oil with garlic. Add the turnip and raisins and cook for about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice, cover and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook just until wilted. Sprinkle with nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Notes from the Underground: Root Vegetables

Written By

Photo of Dee DeckerDee DeckerExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences (828) 488-3848 (Office) dee_decker@ncsu.eduSwain County, North Carolina
Updated on Jul 11, 2016
Was the information on this page helpful? Yes check No close
This page can also be accessed from: go.ncsu.edu/readext?418204