May turnip and radishes

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Radishes are available most of the year—because large storage varieties, like Black Spanish radishes keep well throughout the winter and are great for pickling—but smaller, more delicate-tasting radishes are a springtime treat. Slice Cherry Belles (traditional supermarket radishes) raw for a spicy, crunchy addition to salads, roast or sauté French breakfast radishes, or simply dip them in softened butter with sea salt for an effortless hors d’oeuvres.

May turnip 227Oblong and pink French breakfast radishes are particularly prevalent this time of the year. Look for firm radishes that show no signs of softening. If the tops are attached, they should be fresh, lively, and not wilted…

May turnip and radishes

The May turnip (nevette in French) is also a sort of radish. Pliny the old (AD 23-AD 79) considered one of the most important vegetables of his day, rating it “directly after cereals or at all events after the bean, since its utility surpasses that of any other plant”. Pliny praised it as a source of fodder for farm animals, noting that this vegetable is not particular about the type of soil in which it grows and, because it can be left in the ground until the next harvest, it “prevents the effects of famine” for humans. The Macomber turnip (actually in Swedish it is rutabaga) dating from the late 19th century features in one of the very few historic markers for a vegetable, on Main Road in Westport, Massachusetts.

In England, around 1700, Turnip Townshend promoted the use of turnips in a four-year crop-rotation system that enabled year-round livestock production

In the south of England the smaller white vegetables are called turnips, while the larger yellow ones are referred to as swedes. In the USA, turnips are the same, but Swedes are usually called rutabagas. In Scotland, Ireland, northern England and parts of Canada, the usage is confusingly reversed, with the yellow vegetables being called turnips or neeps, and the white ones swedes. Neeps are mashed and eaten with haggis, traditionally on Burns Night. Turnip lanterns are an old tradition; since inaugural Halloween festivals in Ireland and Scotland, turnips (rutabaga) have been carved out and used as candle lanterns. At Samhain, candle lanterns carved from turnips were part of the traditional Celtic festival. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and placed in windows, used to ward off harmful spirits. At Halloween in Scotland in 1895, masqueraders in disguise carried lanterns made out of scooped out turnips.tornado 040

In Nordic countries turnips provided the staple crop before their replacement by the potato in the 18th century. The cross between turnip and cabbage, rutabaga, was possibly first produced in Scandinavia.

In Turkey, particularly in the area near Adana, turnips are used to flavor şalgam, a juice made from purple carrots and spices served ice cold. In Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon, turnips are pickled.

In Japan pickled turnips daikon are also popular and are sometimes stir fried with salt/soysauce. Turnip greens are included in the ritual of the Festival of Seven Herbs, called suzuna.

In the United States, stewed turnips are eaten as a root vegetable in the autumn and winter. The greens of the turnip are harvested and eaten all year. Turnip greens may be cooked with a ham hock or piece of fat pork meat, the juice produced in the stewing process prized as pot liquor. Stewed turnip greens are often eaten with vinegar.

In the Tyrolean Alps of Austria, raw shredded turnip-root is served in a chilled remoulade in the absence of other fresh greens as a winter salad.

In Iran, boiled turnip-roots (with salt) are a common household remedy for cough and cold.

In the Punjab and Kashmir regions of India and Pakistan turnips are used in variety of dishes, most notably shab-daig.

I prepared mini sandwich towers with quark cream and radishes. On the picture the big pink and white bulbs are the French nevettes.

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