21 Feb2012

Locally grown turnips and rutabagas. Cool. You know I am a sucker for produce that you don’t just typically find at the nearest grocery or market. I’m all for variety, and have always wondered why our farmers don’t turn into specialist produce providers if not for locals, then for high end provedores in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan… the margins on less common ingredients could help to provide better employment and more sustainable farms. But enough of that — when Gejo of Kitchen Herbs farm texted me last week that he would have turnips and rutabagas, I jumped at the chance to be amongst the first to order them. I haven’t cooked them yet, but I plan to replicate a mashed rutabaga side dish of sister’s with lots of butter… and excellent side dish for roast chicken or turkey… Rutabagas or swedes (swedish turnips) are close relatives of the turnip, and believed to be a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, rutabagas are typically a bit yellow when cooked, that’s them up above…

Turnips are amongst the oldest cultivated vegetables, according to Alan Davidson, in the Oxford Dictionary of Food. The Romans were recorded to have enjoyed turnips from about the first century onwards… It is unusual, in fact, I have never before come across local turnips, so this is great… I hope others find enough uses for them to sustain small crops throughout the year… Oh, and more than once, folks have told me singkamas are turnips, and they are not. If you have any good ideas for how I can best use this kilo of white turnips, I would appreciate your suggestions…

Finally, Gejo sent this “braided carrot” or if you have a green mind, perhaps you can see something a little bit more suggestive… Not sure if my old post on unusual carrots prompted this special inclusion, but it’s amusing in that it is so unusual… Thanks for all the great produce Gejo!



  1. jade186 says:

    I make baby food out of turnips. I’ve heard that they are more nutritious that carrots. The problem is, my little one just won’t eat them!
    We usually serve turnips as side dishes as well for roast (chicken, turkey, beef…), and they’re in season during winter. They also make excellent cream soups; great for chilly nights :-)
    I’ll see if I can find the recipe of my SO’s mum.

    Feb 21, 2012 | 7:43 pm


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  3. joey says:

    I really need to check Kitchen Herbs soon! Such lovely produce!!

    Feb 21, 2012 | 10:58 pm

  4. betty q. says:

    Ages ago when we moved up NOrth, I longed to eat the panfried turnip cake I usuaally have at dimsum. Lo Bak is hard to come by where we were so I substituted rutabagas for the Lo bak. Ever since then, I make the dim sum turnip cake for I like the sweetness of the rutabagas and the slight pungency if has. So, anyone wishing to make the Lo Bak or Taro dimsum cake, try it with rutabagas and you will switch to it.

    As for the turnips, MM, I know how you like pickles. However, the pickle I am talking about is the East Indian pickle …..very addicting and really, really good! It uses baby turnips, carrots, cauliflower, etc….which reminds me…time to make it again!

    Feb 21, 2012 | 11:03 pm

  5. Kasseopeia says:

    Turnips (yes, not singkamas!) I have had only two ways so far: oven-roasted after being tossed with salt, pepper and EVOO; and sliced thinly and poached in butter. The former was meh but the second was good! Made sandwiches with them and a very thin slice of smoked salmon, hehe =)

    Feb 22, 2012 | 12:39 am

  6. ChrisB says:

    here’s a recipe I just came across on FB that uses both turnips and rutabaga :-) http://www.theperennialplate.com/blog/2012/02/vietnamese-rutabaga-slaw/

    Feb 22, 2012 | 1:37 am

  7. josephine says:

    Here in France there is a dish called Navarin made to celebrate the beginning of spring. The word is said to derive from “navet” which means turnip, and the first spring specimens are just like the ones in your photo. The meat used is very young lamb or veal as this is also the birthing season (sorry vegetarians!). While not traditional, if lamb or veal is expensive or hard to get, I daresay baby pig would work too, as long as it’s not too fatty:) You need a mild-tasting meat which will not overwhelm the vegetables which are the stars of this dish.
    You need around a kilo of meat, a glutinous but lean cut from shoulder,leg or rib, cut into large chunks. The connective tissues in very young animals have a lovely texture when gently braised.
    Other ingredients:
    Olive or vegetable oil
    1 onion finely chopped
    3-4 cloves garlic finely chopped or 3-4 young garlic bulbs (save the green tops for garnish)
    1 tblspn flour
    1 cup chopped very ripe tomatoes or 1 can tomatoes
    1 tsp tomato paste
    1 tsp sugar
    1 small glass white wine (optional)
    1 litre light stock made from chicken, veal, lamb or pork bones or just water (when I have no stock I use an organic stock cube or powder but avoid commercial stock cubes as the excess salt, additives and MSG would ruin the delicate tastes)
    6-8 baby turnips peeled and chopped into chunks
    6-12 baby carrots (depending on size) peeled and in chunks or left whole if tiny
    handful sugar-snap peas (mangetouts)
    handful very young green beans (sitaw) cut into finger lengths if long
    very young broadbeans, a good handful, the French call these “feves” but they’re the same as siniguelas (optional)
    3-4 young leeks or 6 bulbs small spring onions
    fresh herbs if available – thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, chives or small amount if using dried
    salt and pepper to taste

    Use a large heavy pan, such as a Dutch oven, Le Creuset, Staub etc. Heat a small amount of oil and soften the onion and garlic. Remove when transparent and start browning the meat in batches, adding more oil if needed. When meat is brown replace the onion and garlic and add the flour and sugar, stirring well. Add the wine and enough stock or water to just cover. Bring slowly to the boil and skim off any scum. Add the tomatoes and paste and stir well. Allow to simmer for around 1/2 hour. Add turnips and carrots and the herbs. Season with salt and pepper, but salt carefully if the stock is already salty. Gently braise for 1/2 hour more or till meat is tender. Add the other vegetables and cook for another 10-15 minutes or so, but the vegetables should still have some snap to them. Check seasoning and garnish with the sliced garlic tops or chopped flat-leaf parsley or chives (optional). Serve with rice, or a delicate egg pasta such as fettucine, or mashed or steamed baby potatoes. This tastes best after a long hard winter, but that’s not necessary for enjoyment! We’re still in mid-winter, but as soon as the first baby veggies and tender herbs arrive in the markets, I’ll be hitting the casserole!

    Feb 22, 2012 | 1:38 am

  8. Footloose says:

    A Filipina friend’s cosmopolitan Iraqi husband introduced me to turnips and horseradish mixed in for scalloped potatoes. Unexpectedly delicious and not holding any Halliburton stock personally, just about the single good thing that I know that came out of the horrific Iraqi debacle.

    Turnip cake, yum. Initially jarring because your eyes see blancmange but your tongue tastes something savory. But once you reconcile your expectations, it becomes an object of longing.

    Feb 22, 2012 | 2:35 am

  9. bakerwanabe says:

    Footloose, very eloquently expressed re trunip cake.

    Feb 22, 2012 | 3:29 am

  10. Katrina says:

    I really appreciate your posts on produce that are uncommon here, MM. I’ve certainly heard of rutabagas, but I don’t think I’ve ever tasted it. Good to know someone’s growing them now.

    And I have to say, Footloose, you write as wittily as ever! :-)

    Feb 22, 2012 | 3:45 am

  11. EJ says:

    Does anyone know any other (non-scientific) word for “singkamas” apart from “jicama”?

    Feb 22, 2012 | 4:44 am

  12. betty q. says:

    EJ…jicama AKA Mexican potato?

    Feb 22, 2012 | 4:56 am

  13. Lilibeth says:

    I love the sweetish taste of rutabagas! I boil them after cutting them into cubes and then toss them in butter, salt and pepper :) Nice to hear you have it in the Philippines.

    Feb 22, 2012 | 7:21 am

  14. ami says:

    A cross between a cabbage and a turnip? I can’t wrap my mind around that! So far off from the normal birds and the bees story.

    Feb 22, 2012 | 8:16 am

  15. Marketman says:

    ami, hahaha, yes, I thought the same… very upstairs, downstairs kind of liaison… :)

    Feb 22, 2012 | 8:21 am

  16. Gej says:

    Great! So many ideas on what to do with rutabagas and turnips! Kasseopeia, the thin sliced turnip poached in butter sounds good (reminds me of radish in bread with lots of butter that MM mentioned recently). Did you also try it without the salmon?

    How about kohlrabi?

    MM, how did you finally cook your produce?

    The first quarter of the year is really the best time to experiment with produce not usually grown in the Philippines, because of the cool weather.

    Feb 22, 2012 | 8:50 am

  17. PITS, MANILA says:

    atchara? like all-radish atchara? minus the foul scent, of course.

    Feb 22, 2012 | 9:04 am

  18. millet says:

    bettyq, radish cake is one of my must-orders in dimsum teashops. would you mind sharng a recipe for it?

    footloose, you’re some wordsmith! i look forward to your comments all the time.

    and yes, MM, i grew up believing singkamas was turnip, until I everybody started calling it jicama. so is there a difference in taste, MM? because i certainly can’t imagine eating singkamas with butter and salt!

    i make a spicy radish pickle that is great with any fried food, except that everytime i open the jar, everyone wonders who passed gas. i always have to explain, “it’s the radish, folks!”

    Feb 22, 2012 | 9:31 am

  19. myra_p says:

    Absolutely make a stew and pack it with your favorite root vegetables. Roasted turnip is really good too.

    Feb 22, 2012 | 11:27 am

  20. EJ says:

    Thanks very much for reminding me, Bettyq. I forgot about that one. The galleon trade really introduced us to a lot of Central and South American produce.

    Feb 22, 2012 | 4:31 pm

  21. Ken_L says:

    There are varieties of turnip that would do quite well in the cooler areas but swedes, alas, really need a bit of frost as they approach maturity to bring out the flavour. So I can’t see them being a viable cash crop here.

    Feb 22, 2012 | 5:00 pm

  22. Mila says:

    Hmmm… kimchi?
    Over here, they toss in chunks of turnips into a soup with pork and corn. It’s sort of their form of nilaga, everybody makes it. And true to Chinese form, they say it’s healthy for some body organ/function. I like the soup after eating tongue searing spicy food, the turnips serve to cool down the tongue and mouth.
    I’d vote for a turnip cake myself, it’s my dimsum guilty pleasure.

    Feb 23, 2012 | 6:39 pm

  23. Footloose says:

    Labanos, lobak or daikon is what I have always known as radish but turnips, although unavoidable here (in Toronto) specially in winter and as a yearned for dimsum treat, I have never really tried cooking until very recently. Now singkamas or jicama is another matter. When harvested young, they were braided into bunches and sold as grade school recess treats and when allowed to mature until crunchy hard, they are julienned and included in fresh lumpia filling. While looking it up, I found this Wiki gem of an entry, the largest jicama on record was dug up in the Philippines just in 2010 and weighed about 23 kilos. Wow, that must have been some great-grandpa of all singkamas, magulang na magayot pa.

    Feb 24, 2012 | 4:28 am

  24. Steve says:

    Known here as swede in Scotland as neeps served with mashed potato with haggis only called rutabaga when they don’t want us to know what we are eating ie in pickles great reading all this respect from England .

    Mar 16, 2012 | 10:55 am


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