Like a lot of root vegetables, turnips get little respect. Thanks to years of verbal jabs from comedians, we believe a rube is someone who just "fell off a turnip truck."
Even deer diss turnips, preferring to munch on beets. "The deer will use their hooves to dig up the beets," said Joe Bartenfelder, who grows turnips and other vegetables on his family's 20-acre farm in Baltimore County and on 100 acres in Caroline County. "With the turnips, the deer just eat the greens."
Yet those who know turnips love them, realizing that while they may not look slick and sophisticated, they have a natural, home-grown sweetness.
Bartenfelder grows most of his turnips, the purple top white globe variety, in Caroline County. There are two turnip harvests, one in the spring and another in fall. By now, turnips from the fall crop have been pulled from the ground and are kept in cold storage, Bartenfelder said.
The turnips are sold at the year-round Saturday farmers' market in Waverly. The turnip supply should last, he said, until mid-February, right up to Valentine's Day. As devoted locavores know, nothing says love like a dish of warm, Maryland turnips.
* Selection: Look for heavy turnips with firm flesh and firm roots. If the greens are attached, they should be bright green and fresh. As for size, smaller usually means sweeter, with the ideal turnip said to be the shape of a tennis ball.
* Storage: Keep in a root cellar or any cool, well-ventilated area. Turnips can be stored in the refrigerator if wrapped in plastic.
* Preparation: Wash off dirt, peel and cook. Turnips are excellent when mashed and mixed with mashed potatoes and celery root. They are also great glazed in honey and butter.
Sources: "The Book of Food," by Frances Bissell; recipezaar.com
turnips glazed in honey
1 large or two small carrots, peeled, cut lengthwise and then on the bias into 1/2 -inch pieces
1 large or two small turnips, peeled and cut into wedges
salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
Place the carrots and turnips in a medium saucepan and just barely cover with cold water. Add a little salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes, until the vegetables are tender but still firm. Drain and shock the vegetables in ice water.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and stir in the honey. Add the vegetables, thyme sprigs and about 3 tablespoons water.
Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring now and then, until the liquid becomes a light, syrupy glaze and the vegetables begin to brown. Sprinkle a little more water if they are browning too fast or start looking greasy. Season to taste with salt and serve.
From "Crescent City Cooking," by Susan Spicer
Per serving: : 103 calories, 1 gram protein, 6 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 13 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 47 milligrams sodium