Harvesting Turnips, Bitter Turnip Tips, and Recipes

I’m almost finished harvesting my turnips. This was my first ever attempt at growing them, and I’m astonished at how easy they were to grow!

It just amazes me that a tiny little seed can turn into something so big! I guess that’s why these were a staple food during so many times of famine.

turnips in the ground

Harvesting them is simple. When the tops of the turnips are about 3 inches across, just pull those babies right out of the ground.

Bigger isn’t better- they tend to get a woody flavor when they stay in the ground for too long. The greens can be eaten also, though I don’t like turnip greens so my chickens get to enjoy that part.

We really don’t ever eat turnips. I don’t even think I’d ever eaten a turnip before last year when my neighbor gave us some from his garden. But I’ve been experimenting with our harvest, trying to find ways to cook them that my family enjoys.

So far, Jerry likes them sliced and sautéed with onions. I made Amish Turnips the other night, and the kids liked those best.

turnips on the ground
turnips on the ground

I have a friend who cans them, and uses them like mashed potatoes. But I’d love to hear from any of you who have a favorite way of preparing turnips!

The first few turnips I tried cooking were terribly bitter. So I looked it up and learned a new trick to remove the bitterness.

Can you see a yellowish line about a quarter of an inch or so down from the surface of the skin? That’s the bitterness line. Peel the turnip just past that line, and the bitterness will be gone.

I’ve also heard that if you boil them with a chopped up potato that’ll take the bitterness away as well.

I plan on planting more of these in the Fall. What about you? Do you grow turnips, and do you have a favorite recipe or tip to share?

26 thoughts on “Harvesting Turnips, Bitter Turnip Tips, and Recipes”

  1. I lived in Kenya for several years in my youth. This is how the locals cooked cabbage. I have used this with many other types of greens and it always tastes delicious. It’s a very simple, quick recipe.
    I recently cooked turnip greens this way.

    Saute some onion (like 1/2 a medium one) until soft or to your taste – I have been starting my “sautes” in water, then after a couple minutes, adding a little olive oil, in order to reduce the heat applied to the oil. Add small amounts of water as necessary to keep from burning.
    Add some cut-up tomatoes – depending on the amount of greens, one large tomato or several small ones. Keeping heat low, COVER and cook for 5-10 minutes or so – until tomatoes have “melted” (softened). Add water only to keep from burning as above with the onions.
    Mash the tomatoes so that they form a sauce.
    Add whatever greens you have, chopped up. Again cover, keep heat low and cook for 5 minutes or so until greens have wilted.
    The tomatoes and then greens should have added enough water so that you won’t have needed to add much during the cooking. After the greens have cooked, you might add some water just to make a little more sauce.

    I use cast iron to cook in – the dutch oven for large volumes of greens or the 12 inch frying pan for small amounts.
    This recipe or technique is called maboga which is the plural of mboga which means vegetable. It can be used for other vegetables – like broccoli not just greens.
    I usually eat the maboga with brown rice. Kenyans eat it with what we would call polenta – called ugali or sima on the coast.

  2. Your advice on how to remove the terribly bitterness from the turnips worked like a charm! The remaining part still retained a strong flavour but at least it was not super bitter. Thank you for your insight and sharing. I have learnt heaps. Many thanks!!

  3. Thank you for your blog. The comments have been very helpful. This is my first time around with turnips and they were bitter and spicy. I think I planted them too soon… harvesting them end of August in zone 7. The greens were excellent though

  4. I love turnips , I boil them until tender along with a couple of white potatoes. While they are cooking I take a large yellow onion and a stick of butter and cook the mixture until the onion is translucent. Drain the turnips and put them through a ricer. Once that is done add the onion mixture to the turnips-season with some salt. yum

  5. We like well washed ‘young’ turnip greens as an addition to our green salads. Torn into small bite sized pieces, it gives a bit of a zing to the other greens. Love it!

  6. Traditionally in the middle east we have our turnips 2 ways, either pickled with beetroots or stuffed with rice and meat in a tahini based sauce.
    I had just cooked it today for my kids who love it !!

  7. Oddly enough, it’s our first year with turnips too…thanks for the harvesting tip. And mashing them is best, but I use more sugar…maybe two (ssh..or three)teaspoons of sugar!

  8. Slice them about 1/8 to 1/4 inch and eat them raw with a bit of ranch dressing! Me and the kids could eat a field full of them that way…

    I have also started tossing a few in my dutch oven frozen meat dish. I dont tell the rest of the folk what they are. I get to eat all of them myself. ha ha ha….

    The turnap may be one of those vegitable we have to eat to survive the upcoming issues in our econoomy….

  9. We actually grilled some this weekend. We sliced them up like thick steak fries and seasoned them with cajun spice and various other seasonings and wrapped in foil. I loved them, the husband, not so much. I also saw a recipe online. Cut them the same way, sprinkle with some sea salt, olive oil and seasoning of your choice and place on a cookie sheet and bake them on 450 until they start turning brown. He said this was a good substitute for potatoes for his diet.

  10. I love turnips, but haven’t grown them in years. I use them as I would potatoes or parsnips – cubed & dropped in with a pot roast or a beef stew. We even use them in the bottom of the roasting pan with our Thanksgiving turkey for flavor (along with celery, carrot, onion & parsnip). My favorite way to eat turnips is mashed like potatoes, though – with lots of butter and black pepper. Yum!

  11. After reading through the comments about all of the recipes to cook them, I had to laugh because although we always had them growing up they were rarely cooked. Besides raw, my parents usually made turnip slaw. This is a slaw with a base of I believe just sugar, water and vinegar, the turnips very finely shredded. Another is turnip kraut, which may have some sort of cooking in the process. I will have to try some of the different recipes!

  12. I’ve cut into chunks & canned & then add to soups & stews in the winter months. We also add them (fresh or canned) to help stretch mashed potatoes. The flavor does get somewhat stronger when canned, FYI.

  13. Thanks for posting about your experience with turnips. I’m thinking of adding them to our fall garden. They seem like such a frugal food. The recipe for Amish Turnips looks and sounds good. That would be my only hesitation – how do I cook them? Maybe a few recipe trials are in order before we get the seed in the ground.

  14. In my family it’s always been the greens that we eat! They are a real treat, so I’m sorry you don’t like them. They are especially good with a bit of bacon , salt, and adding just a little bit of sugar – not so they taste sweet but I think it balances the bitter a little. My Grandmother always made turnip greens if I was coming over. Well, and cornbread to go with it of course. 🙂 Yum! Wish I could have it for lunch. The canned turnip greens just don’t compare.

    • This is the way I was looking for. My Granny always made me turnips and what they called Pot Liquor and of course the cornbread. I was too busy eatting to notice how she cooked them.

  15. We love turnip. Our fav way is boiled or steamed with carrots then mashed. I also like them mashed with potatoes. Never have had a bitter turnip, so not sure if that’s a southern thing. Lots of folks around eat turnip greens, but I don’t care for those either. My husband, however like them a lot, so he gets that part 🙂

    We don’t grow them ’cause they are very inexpensive and if they are in the garden they get wormy… at least in our garden. I grow carrots and parsnips and the worms don’t get into those, but they love turnips for some reason.

    Your turnips look wonderful!! I’ll need to try the Amish Turnip recipe sometime.

    • Mrs D,

      I did get some of the worms in a few of my turnips. Here is what it says about them in the book Maximizing Your Mini Farm… “The only pest I have seen in turnips that poses a substantive threat- and it is completely preventable- is cabbage root maggots. Cabbage root maggots are the larvae of a fly that looks like a slightly smaller and more streamlined version of a housefly. They overwinter as pupae in the soil, and emerge at the time you’d usually plant seeds. Once the plants emerge, they lay eggs at the base of the plant that burrow into the soil and then eat the roots voraciously… Two factors disproportionately attract this pest. The first is rotting organic matter in the soil such as immature compost. The second is planting when the soil temperature is a little too cold. If you avoid immature compost, plant at an average soil temperature of 55 degrees and make sure you don’t plant where cabbage-family crops were grown last year; this pest can be completely prevented by covering your bed with floating row cover once the seeds are planted. Remove the row cover once soil temperatures average 65 degrees and you are home free.”

  16. Kendra,
    Beautiful turnips! We like them cooked in water until tender then draining and seasoned with salt and pepper and vinegar. Can add onions to that. Also love them browned in a cast iron skillet with onions (smothered).
    I agree, bigger is not better, like the smaller ones best!

  17. My family loves cooking chunks of turnip and chunks of carrot together, mash them with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper. So good, as the carrot sweetens the turnip.

  18. I haven’t grown turnips for years as they have always gotten wormy ~ like Mrs. D. said above. But I was given ‘a lot’ of seed so will have to give it a go again this year.
    My Auntie puts turnip in her stew along with parsnips, rutabega, potatoes, carrots and onions and stew meat. Her stew is not thickened and is delicious! This is the only way I have eaten them!

  19. We’ve always had them as part of our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Mashed like potatoes or winter squash, with just a bit of sugar, salt, black pepper and butter.
    We have never grown them though, and now that I’m thinking about it, I’m curious if what we do with tomatoes would work with turnip… Once tomatoes flower and start pushing the fruit, we give the plants a good drink of sugar water! This makes for less acidic tomatoes. 🙂 It just might work to cut some of the bitterness of the turnip. ??

  20. Kendra, I love to eat them raw. I also peel them and cut into chunks. Cover with water, add about a tsp of sugar, honey or sweetner of choice, and salt to taste. Cook untill tender, drain any liquid if needed, and serve with pepper black pepper and butter. Try roasting them, and also if you cook a roast add some turnips.


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