Before tomatoes come into season, before eggplant is ready to be sliced up, brushed with olive oil and tossed on the grill, it’s worth visiting the produce vendors at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market for Hakurei turnips. These small, golf-ball sized turnips also are known as white turnips, Japanese turnips, and salad turnips. They can be eaten raw or cooked. No peeling is required.
Friends of the Market volunteer Himanee Gupta-Carlson swears by these late spring/early summer delights. She discovered them in 2010 shortly after moving to Saratoga Springs at the farmers’ market. They now are a regular part of her seasonal diet. She particularly likes to wrap them in foil, put them on a grill, and let them cook a little like a baked potato until they are soft enough to slice through easily with a sharp knife. She claims that they taste a little like roasted marshmallows – minus the sugar.
Another Friends’ volunteer, Pattie Garrett, notes that the turnips have a delicate flavor and especial crunchy texture when eaten raw. Cooking mellows out the flavor and consistency, giving them a sweet, buttery taste. They pair well with onions, garlic scapes, carrots, kohlrabi, spring peas, and many other vegetables. Try them in a stir-fry, sautéing together the vegetables of your choice.
Many Saratoga Farmers’ Market vendors sell the turnips with the green tops attached. To prolong their freshness, chop off the greens after purchasing a bunch and cook the greens separately. Gupta-Carlson’s favorite method is an India-inspired dry roast. She rinses the greens well, shakes them dry and chops them finely. She then roasts cumin seed, fenugreek, and black mustard seeds on a lightly oiled skillet, adds the greens and tosses them until they turn bright green, about one to two minutes. The dry, slightly bitter flavor that this method of cooking imparts makes the greens a nice starter to a light summer meal.
Hakurei turnips are available most of the summer but are especially sweet and flavorful through the months of May, June, and early July. Unlike other turnips, they are not suited for long-term storage. However, they will keep in a refrigerator in plastic bags for a few weeks.
Give them a try with this recipe, adapted from Serious Eats, while they last.
Sauteed Hakurei Turnips with Greens
(from Serious Eats)
• 1 ½ pounds Hakurei turnips, with green tops
• 3 Tablespoons olive oil
• Freshly ground pepper
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, cut greens from turnip bulbs, leaving a small portion of stem (less than ½ inch) attached to each bulb. Wash leafy greens and turnips well of any sand. You can leave the skins on as it is edible. Slice each turnip pole to pole into 4 to 6 wedges of ½ inch thick each.
Add leafy greens to boiling water and cook just until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer greens to cold water to chill, then drain, squeeze out excess water and chop into small pieces.
Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Add turnip wedges, season with pepper and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until well browned in spots about 3 minutes.
Add chopped greens and toss to combine, cooking just until greens are warmed through, about 1 minute longer.