June 5, 2016
There used to be a time when we bought arty French navets and actually threw away the greens…!
Small and tender white turnips or navets (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa) are a real treat—as are nearly all turnips as well as their cousins swedes or rutabaga (Brassica napus subsp. rapifera)—, however young turnip greens or turnip tops (leaves and stems) are equally delicious and far more nutritious. Yet the leaves and stems of these root vegetables are very often pushed aside and thrown away: roots in one hand, the greens in the other, one deft turn and crunch they're off. The same is done with beetroot and other root veggies, and more's the pity.
Apart from the fact that they are quite delicious when still young and tender—fresh and crunchy, slightly bitter and with a faint mustard taste—they are full of health benefiting vitamins and minerals as well as the antioxidant glucosinolate which helps the body to defend itself against a number of illnesses.
Incidentally turnip greens have quite a following in Germany (Rübstiel or Stielmus) and the Netherlands (Raapstelen) where they are sold without the roots. They then are incorporated into mashed potatoes and are an equivalent to the Irish calcannon.
I like the turnip tops raw in a green smoothie or in a crunchy, slightly bitter salad. Together with a sesame salad dressing inspired by a Japanese favourite.
Salad of Turnip Greens with Sesame Dressing (for 2-3 servings)
25 g sesame, toasted and ground
½ tsp nigella seeds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp mayonnaise
½ tsp roasted sesame oil
½ tsp mirin
½ tsp soya sauce
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
1 splash of cold water
1 bunch of fresh and young turnip greens
Prepare the salad dressing by first toasting your two seeds. Let them cool, then grind roughly till you have a paste with the odd sesame and nigella seeds left whole. Stir in all other ingredients except the turnip greens and mix well. You can tweak the ingredients to your taste adding say less mayo or more lemon juice if you like.
Sort out leaves and stems which are too big and therefore too tough and bitter. Wash the turnip greens thoroughly and pat dry. Now, chop everything into small slices and mix with the salad dressing.