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Turnips belong to the botanical cabbage family (lat.: Cruciferae or Brassicaceae). From a gastronomical point of view they are a root vegetable. The biennial, hardy plant develops a bulbous root in its first year, from which the leaves grow directly. In the second year yellow flowers grow in clusters. The leaves are light to grass green. In contrast to rutabagas the leaves of turnips are hairy.

Several subspecies of turnips are available. They have different colours and shapes and are sold under different names, for example:

  • white turnip,
  • May turnip or Navette
  • turnip tops or turnip greens
  • Teltow turnip

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Origin of turnips

Turnips are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. It was already grown as a food in Greek and Roman Antiquity. All modern turnip cultivars have probably developed from the weed Brassica campestris. In medieval times and before the potato was introduced, turnips and rutabagas were the most important food for man and domesticated animals.

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Nutritional properties of turnips

Turnips have a high proportion of carbohydrates and proteins. They are rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron and sodium and contain vitamin B1, B2, B6, C and provitamin A. Turnips furthermore contain 2-Phenylethyl isothiocyanate, an essential oil responsible for a mild, pleasant taste similar to white radish. Turnips are rich in food fibre and contain about 90 % water. They are low in calories and therefore a good diet food.

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Preparation of turnips

Turnips are always cooked before consumption. They are peeled and, depending on the recipe, turned or cut in slices or strips. Turnip leaves are also edible and are prepared like spinach.

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