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The Almighty Organic Turnip

Winter in Toronto is in its full spectrum.  While we are patiently waiting for the new DSC_0012growing season to start, we wanted to share another article emphasizing the benefits of one of the underestimated organic vegetables we grew last season – TURNIP.

By reading this article you will be able to learn about:

  • Origin and history of turnip
  • Nutritional value of turnip
  • Type of turnip we grew last season
  • How to eat turnip

Turnips have been cultivated since the time of Alexander the Great. However, we only ate turnips for first time this year.

We knew about its existence only through this funny tale turned into a cartoon from our childhood, about grandpa who could not pull out the grown turnip from the ground.

In order to get the turnip out of the soil, he asked the grandma, and then the granddaughter and eventually the dog, the cat and the mouse to help to pull out this turnip. . . and they succeeded. Oh what a story 🙂

Origin & History – Turnips grow wild in Siberia and have been eaten since prehistoric times. Turnip can be considered of one of the oldest cultivated vegetables.  The turnip is thought to have originated in northern Europe about 2000 B.C. from a variety of bird rape weed (wild weed that is not considered edible nowadays). Selection and breeding have produced many different varieties of turnip.

Turnips are part of the cruciferous vegetables and cruciferous vegetables are unique in that they are rich sources of sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates.

Cruciferous or Brassica vegetables are so named because they come from plants in the family known to botanists and biologists as Cruciferae or alternately, Brassicaceae.

Many commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, radish, horseradish, watercress, wasabi, and Swiss chard.

Before the spread of potatoes, the highly nutritious turnip was among the most important staple foods for man and animals. In Britain in early 18th century Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend,  known as “Turnip Townshend” introduced turnips  as an animal feed for winter.  This opened a new chapter in the agricultural system where animals no longer were needed to be slaughtered in the autumn.  This contributed to the England’s “Agricultural Revolution.”

Turnips are the “starch” vegetable, that means that they are composed primarily of carbohydrates, however; are three times LESS in calories than the potatoes.

Nutritional value. Please note that turnips have so many beneficial properties that it would be hard to cover it in a short article like this one. Let’s rather concentrate on a few that spoke to us the most.

  • Turnip is high in protein for a vegetable (1 gr in 100 gr of turnip)
  • Turnip is an excellent source of vitamin C. The vitamin C is a powerful vitamin, required for collagen formation, and the immune system booster to neutralize the viruses and germs that are around us. Vitamin C also promotes the absorption of iron.
  • Turnips are an important source of calcium and potassium which are vital for healthy bone growth and maintenance.
  • Turnips have a beneficial effect on the urinary system, purify the blood and aid in the elimination of toxins. For this reason, they make a good addition to cleansing smoothie. Both the root and the green tops are high in glucosinolates (sulfur-containing compounds), which are thought to block the development of cancer.

Turnip greens provide larger amounts of these vitamins and minerals and are especially rich in folic acid. This vitamin is essential for the normal growth and maintenance of all cells.

And can you believe how many people discard the turnip greens rather than eating them? We are guilty as charged as we did not know what to do with the greens before we got our hands (or should I say our eyes) on the tremendous benefits that turnip greens poses we composted them on the farm.

Next season we are definitely going to implements the greens into our menu 🙂


Turnips contain sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, iron, copper, magnesium and zinc.


Turnips contain thiamin, niacin, B-6, C and riboflavin.

Kind of Turnips we grew

We only grew one kind this last season. This was our first time growing it and eating it. We picked Purple Top White Globe, as it is the most popular.

We learned something amazing about growing turnips:

  • First of all they are very resistant to cold. We were harvesting them even in December before the temperatures went really down and snowfall got more serious.
  • 2nd the deer did not like them, were not interested in a single leaf or root of turnip. (Whereas we could not say that about carrots the deer were munching on them like crazy trying to pull the carrots from the ground)

Interesting fact is that Turnip is usually the first vegetables to suffer from boron deficiencies. The core of your turnip will develop grayish-brown areas that will eventually rot and stink. Our turnips’ insides were snow white; our educated guess is that our soil was not boron deficient.

How to Eat Turnips

  • Raw in the salads
  • Raw as a solo snack

We eat them raw; they taste like much milder version of the radish. We slice them nicely into the rings making it easy and handy snack.

We learned from other people that the turnips are known as roasted or cooked turnip.  Often we are the first one to introduce others to raw turnip. People are so used to roasted and cooked turnip that they don’t even know they are perfectly edible and full of nutrients eaten RAW.

In our case we have never eaten turnips and we thought that this is how you suppose to eat it – RAW.

Eat raw organic turnip and stay healthy 🙂


Pat Crocker, The Juicing Bible, 2nd edition

Barton Seaver , P.K. Newby, ScD.,M.P.H, National Geographic, Foods for Health

Shirley Murphy & Cathy Trowridge, Nutraceutical Garden Guide, Learning more about the food we eat & how it affects the way we live

A Treasury of Persian Cuisine  By Shirin Simmons

Sybil Kapoor, Simply Veg. A Modern guide To Everyday Eating

John Seymour, Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it, The Complete Back-To-Basics Guide

Oregon state University , Linus Pauling Institute

Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility

Drawings credited to



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