Hakurei turnip puree

June 13, 2011 § 19 Comments

So, for the duration of the Massachusetts growing season, I’m thinking about doing one post every week or so about cooking with some of the less common of the vegetables we receive in our CSA.  I’m thinking about calling it: “What the f$*# do I do with…?”

It seemed like such a great idea.  Actually maybe it still is a great idea, but my confidence in it is somewhat shaken.

Why?  Because, in our very first share this year, which I picked up last Thursday (in an impressively dramatic thunderstorm – quarter-sized hail anyone?) the first challenge I was confronted with was one I don’t think I can actually surmount.  Turnips.

I love vegetables.  Love them.  A lot.  There are very, very few vegetables I can think of that I don’t really like. The sum total that I can think of off the top of my head are: okra and turnips.

I keep trying to like turnips though. I try really hard.

Right now, I’m back in Minnesota for the week, visiting my parents, and I was just discussing turnips with my dad.  “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a turnip.  Haven’t they through the years been associated with poor people?”  He asked.  “Yeah,” I replied, “in general, I think so.”

“It seems like they have an image problem,” he mused.  ‘More like a taste problem,’ I thought.  Turnips taste of the earth, dark, loamy, craggy.  I often like earthy things, but turnips have a bitterness to them that I just can’t quite learn to like.  It always makes me feel like maybe they were grown in earth that was mistreated, warred over, maybe cried upon. I don’t know.

“You seem to like roasted vegetables,” my dad pointed out.  “Have you tried that?”  “Yes.  I didn’t like them.”

“How about dousing them with a bunch of butter and cream?”  “Like turnips au gratin? I’ve tried that and I didn’t like it either!”  It may be a hopeless cause.

If there is a turnip out there that I have a hope of liking, it is the hakurei turnip.  These turnips are ready to come out of the ground early in the season, right around the same time as radishes.  And, they are lovely, white orbs that taper to a delicate point.  Their texture is creamy, almost buttery when raw, and I know quite a crowd of people who love to eat them that way, with maybe just a bit of dip or a sprinkling of sea salt.

Both raw and cooked, their bite is much mellower, their taste sweeter, than your late season, hardy storage turnips.  They’re like the veal to regular turnip’s beef.  These are what showed up in our first CSA share of the year.  In past years, I’ve always tried a couple and then pawned the rest off on friends who like them (and there are many that flat out adore them, so if you like turnips, rest assured, I am not judging you.  I judge only myself.).  This year, though, I was determined to give them a fresh chance. I opened my mind, set aside my preconceptions, and decided to turn them into a velvety puree, laced with a hefty dose of garlic.

The turnips simmered along with the garlic in a bath of milk until everything was soft and the flavors had mingled.  I whirred them with my handheld blender until they collapsed together into a gorgeously soft pile of mush, a la nursery school snack.  I sprinkled it with a tiny bit of a tarragon, for a cool licorice bite.

Joel assures me it was really good, but to me, it tasted like turnips.  I liked the garlic.  But, I still don’t really like turnips.

But, I won’t give up hope.  Next up, I’ll probably try bacon.  Or pickling them. Because we know how I feel about pickled things these days.  Perhaps that will work.  But, in the meantime, how do you feel about turnips?

Garlicky Hakurei Turnip Puree (serves 4)

  • 6-7 hakurei turnips, washed and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, and smashed with the side of a knife
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of chopped fresh herbs, whatever type(s) suits your fancy, for garnish
  1. Combine the turnips, potato, garlic cloves, and milk in a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then turn down to low and simmer, half-covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the turnips and potato are tender when pricked with a fork.  Stir fairly frequently to keep the pot from bubbling over.
  2. Remove from the heat and blend the turnips, potato, garlic, and milk together until smooth, either using a handheld blender or in a standing blender (if using a standing blender, you’ll probably want to do the pureeing in two batches).  If the mixture seems too thick, add a little additional milk.  (If you want a soup, you can add a bit of warm stock until you get the consistency you want.)
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.

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§ 19 Responses to Hakurei turnip puree

  • Lydia L. says:

    I completely understand your plight with turnips. I have been involved with a similar one with onions. Everybody seems to love them but me. I’ve tried and I’ve tried…but I just can’t like them. But–there is hope! And don’t tell anybody who knows me–but, I was talked into trying a bite of a blooming onion at Outback once, by my husband, and I liked it. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. So maybe one day you will find that recipe that will make turnips tolerable for you. 🙂

    excellent blog! I love your writing style.

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Thank you! And thanks for the encouragement! I’m definitely going to keep trying. Good luck with your quest to like onions! 🙂

  • Shreela says:

    My first taste of turnips was them diced up in the cooked turnip greens, OMG nasty (IMO). Almost 40 years later, DH talks me into trying them mashed like potatoes, sans the greens (I don’t like strong greens). The mashed turnips tasted pretty decent with just butter and salt.

    I’ve been trying other things I didn’t like as a child, but like you, I still haven’t found a way to enjoy okra. I’ll eat them thinly sliced in gumbo, but coated with corn meal and fried, NO WAY, blech!

    I also tried chicken liver pate again – I kept putting in onions and garlic to cover the squicky metallic taste, then gave up. DH ate it all.

    Well, at least we’re trying ^_^

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Totally! I think trying, and not giving up, is the most important part! 🙂 And, I am so right there with you about okra, ugh.

  • Sonja says:

    So funny we recieved these in our CSA yesterday. What the f&*% to do with them is right. Every week I get something like this. Las week it was garlic tops FYI eaten raw garlic tops are HOT! Fortunatly our farmer sends a newsletter and explains how to use some of the less common veggies. I actually do enjoy the challenge but am occasionally at a loss as to what to do with them.

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      It’s such a fun challenge. I totally love that aspect of a CSA! I had no idea what to do the first time I had garlic tops either, but now I love them sauteed and sprinkled on things, or else in soup.

  • Tricia says:

    I’m doing something similar and had the same idea for a title ::grin::
    I may try this puree – I got more turnips this week.
    Here’s what I did with my first batch – wrapped them in pancetta! Yum!
    I also didn’t know what the bleep to do with fava beans:

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Awesome! I’m definitely thinking that adding bacon or pancetta is going to be my next approach (probably should have been my first, given how much I do love bacon). And, don’t you think fava beans are great, now that you’ve had them? I’m not really supposed to eat them because of my intolerance, but they’re so good in a spring pasta dish, or just crushed on toast with some salt. Mmm.

  • sarah lee says:

    I hope you enjoy your visit; we just starting having summer a few days ago!

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Thanks! It’s a great visit so far – even though summer seems to have gone and disappeared again! 🙂

  • You are my new found love…..I think I may have to move in….all of your dishes lure me in to try new and exciting flavors. Let’s just hope the kiddos don’t find out what they’re eating until AFTER they’ve carried on and on about how “this one’s a keeper, mom”, yes? Cheers!

  • Heather says:

    Hi Emily! First of all, I quite enjoy reading your posts, you are a lovely food writer. While not a huge fan of turnips myself, I have been making a root vegetable puree that includes turnips for the holidays for years that is extremely popular everywhere I go. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

  • pinkpolkadotfood says:

    LOL…sorry, but some you like and some you don’t!!

  • At least you gave it a try! I don’t like them either.

  • Andrea says:

    LOVED this blog! I just made a creamy turnip-leep soup (pureed, of course) with nutmeg. I have never had a turnip before, so I was surprised by the bite it still had even after the added cream (yum). So I added 2 TBS of brown sugar and it helped. Plus, when a few focaccia croutons are dumped into the soup bowl, and a little parmesan cheese on top, it wasn’t half-bad. But I do believe my tongue was saying, “um, this isn’t made out of potatoes, is it?”

    Thanks for the blog/site!

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