The Nutrition of Turnips & Turnip Greens

September 8th

This is the first year we have grown turnips. Our purpose for growing them is threefold. We wanted another source of food for ourselves and our livestock. The versatility of this crop provides two sources of food, the turnip bulb and the greens. The hardiness of this crop in our location, zone 7, will provide us with greens for much of the winter, both for us and the animals.

October 25th

 

October 3rd

We haven’t eaten very many turnips in our lives, actually very few. They are apt to have a bitterness to them if not picked and cooked in a way to minimize that flavor. Needless to say, I haven’t had a lot of experience cooking them, but I have found a couple of ways to fix them that are okay. Not bad, but edible. 

 
First, I used the recipe that our friend, Grace, showed me. Add a little salted water in a pan. Peel and cut up the turnips. Boil long enough for them to becomes soft, then add a few tablespoons of butter. As the liquid cooks down, sprinkle in a little cornmeal to thicken. Right before serving, sprinkle in a little sugar to help cut the bitterness. This recipe is pretty good. I find the smaller turnips taste better, and they are better after a few frosts, like my gardening books indicated.

 
We have also baked peeled, and cut up turnips with carrots, onions and potatoes. I put a little butter in the pan, added the vegetables, and baked until soft. We find that we enjoy them more if they aren’t the only vegetable on the plate.

So, what nutrients do turnips include? 1 cup of turnips cubes, cooked, boiled, drained with salt have the following nutrients.

  • calories 34.3
  • carbohydrates 7.9g
    November 23rd
  • protein 1.1g
  • vitamin C, K
  • choline
  • folate
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • phosphorus
  • sodium
  • omega-3 & 6 fatty acids

 
 

November 23rd

From this small patch of turnips, I have been harvesting greens for the chickens almost every morning, with few exceptions, for almost two and a half months. I expected them to die down once we started having temperatures below freezing, but that has only slowed them down. I figured the night we got down to 17 degrees, that would do it. Nope. They are still growing leaves left and right. 

So the next thing I needed to learn, is how to cook turnip greens. A woman at church fixes them for our monthly potluck meals this time of year, so I picked her brain for her recipe. She told me there isn’t really a recipe, so she just talked me through it.

 First she wilts the greens in just a little water. 

Then, add a little bacon grease and let them cook. Sprinkle with a little sugar right before serving to help cut the bitterness. That’s it.

Well, my greens were okay, but there are definitely things I need to do different next time. I added too much bacon grease, for one. Two, I needed to let them cook longer, and at a higher temperature. After I had added the grease and the water had cooked out, I lowered the burner and put a lid on the skillet to let them cook, stirring occasionally. I cooked them this way for about 10 to 15 minutes. I knew they needed to cook for a while, but wasn’t sure how long. 


This pan full of leaves, turned out to be two very small helpings. And, that was okay, because they weren’t the best greens in the world. Next time, I will tweak my technique and hope they turn out better.

What was the nutritional value of these greens? Just as with the turnips, the nutrients included in the butter and bacon grease are not a part of this analysis. 1 cup of turnip greens, cooked, boiled, drained with salt include the following nutrients.

  • calories 28.8
  • carbohydrates 6.3g
  • protein 1.6g
  • vitamins E, C, K
  • folate
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • sodium
  • potassium
  • iron
  • selenium
  • omega-3 & 6 fatty acids

If I were figuring the nutritional content of turnips and greens for the chickens, I would be looking at raw instead of cooked nutrients. But that will be another post.


I find it fascinating to be able to grow food that will continue producing in the winter in our location. In an emergency, short term or long term, this could be another source of food for us as well as our animals. The opportunity we have been given to learn to grow and utilize a variety of foods is a gift I am truly thankful for. You may not want to grow turnips, but there is something that you’ve been wondering about. Something that will be of benefit to you and yours. Go learn it, figure it out and be able to use it. With the way things are going now days, you just never know when you may need to use your new found knowledge and skills. So get busy.

Until next time – Fern

43 thoughts on “The Nutrition of Turnips & Turnip Greens

  1. I had never eaten them before this year, but now I crave them all the time! I've never grown them, and look forward to planting some kale, turnip greens, and mustard greens this year. My mom loves turnips, but I've never eaten them either.

  2. I have been peeling the turnips the way you recommended and it works great! Another plus is the goats like the peelings. Thank you very much for this little golden tidbit! We haven't tried them raw yet, but I hear they are great in lacto-fermenation. Thanks again.Fern

  3. We are just now getting into greens, Goodwife. You see, I have been rather particular for most of my life. Besides, this is our first ever turnip crop and I am just fascinated that we are still harvesting in January! We've had some temperatures in the low teens recently and I've tried covering the remaining turnips with a frost cloth to see if it will help them continue to produce greens. It's a great learning experience. Thank you very much for sharing your technique. Fern

  4. We love greens! I take a big bunch of turnip greens, and a big bunch of kale, and usually an onion and chop it up with my big butcher knife. Then I put a nice mess of bacon grease in a pan and get it good an hot. Then i pile the chopped greens in the pan and sautee them until they've wilted nicely. Then sometimes I'll add a pint of home canned chicken stock and cook it on high heat until the most of the liquid evaporates, or sometimes I just sautee them until they are nicely wilted and then eat them while they are hot! I don't cook my greens for over 10 or 15 minutes total. I suppose it's an individual thing as our aunt won't eat greens, she says they are bitter. I've never noticed a bitter taste though. It's interesting how people's palates vary! 🙂

  5. When you peel the turnip be sure to get the translucent layer about an 1/8 of an inch under the skin. The peel will be about 1/4 inch thick. The translucent layer is what has the bitterness in it. Then slice and eat raw…no bitterness. In a stew the turnips now take on the taste of the gravy.

  6. I have really been surprised at all of the comments and folks that eat turnips and greens, Janett. And I do appreciate yet another way to cook them. Honestly, I figured this article would be a sleeper and that many people would not be interested in it. That goes to show how much I have yet to learn. There are so many people out there that we can learn from everyday. Thanks again.Fern

  7. If the turnip wasn't a good dual purpose food, for man and beast, we probably wouldn't grow them. My main motivation was to see what I could grow for our animals instead of buying commercial grain. The advantage with turnips is that they are very nutritious, especially the greens, for us as well. There are other vegetables that taste better, like potatoes, but they don't provide us with animal feed like turnips do. Thank you for sharing, Vickie.Fern

  8. I always cook my turnip greens with the salt pork on low for along time. Young greens are best. and remove the large stem. and cut or tear into smaller pieces. For the turnips they can be boiled like potatoes until soft add a little butter salt and pepper. But my favorite way is to cut in to chunks and carrots, or other root vegs toss with olive oil salt pepper and garlic powder and roast in oven until til tinder.

  9. The only time I can remember eating turnips was at my grandmother's when she cooked it in a stew with beef, carrots and onions. My mom didn't like turnips and said that they were only good as animal feed- so I guess that would explain why I have never cooked with them before! I would love to try your methods and also some of the recipes mentioned in the comments above. Thanks! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  10. Over on The Prudent Homemaker, she has a recipe for Turnip Gratin. Sort of like scalloped potatoes, but with sliced turnips. I thought it was pretty good.

  11. I made sure I only picked the smaller leaves for this dish Judydee. I give the chickens the larger leaves. I didn't think about cutting out the stems even though some of them were pretty sturdy. I just figured they would cook down, and they probably would have if I had cooked them longer. I didn't add any meat, just the bacon grease for flavor. Thanks for the information. For me, every little bit helps.Fern

  12. I hadn't heard of changing out the water, Sue. Thank you for that hint. I have wondered about canning greens. We figure frozen would taste better, but canned doesn't rely on electricity for the freezer. Sounds like a good meal to me. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  13. Thank you for teaching me something new, Bellen. I had to look up chiffonade to see what it meant. I can see where cutting up the greens would make them easier to eat and they would cook better. I have thought about adding more detail to the nutrition posts, but since I didn't start out that way, I haven't changed them. You're right, turnip greens do have an impressive amount of some nutrients. I'm glad you enjoy your time here.Fern

  14. But we don't like radishes, Fiona. (-: The only time I have ever grown radishes is in the squash hills to keep the bugs down. And we never pick them. We haven't been big green eaters, but I can see where we will be eating more after I figure out how to cook them better. Thanks for the comment.Fern

  15. I can see where adding more water would help, C.M. Then as they cooked much longer than the 10 to 15 minutes I allowed, the water would cook down. I'm sure cutting them into smaller pieces would also help.Interesting you mentioned the hot pepper vinegar. I bought a bottle just last week. When we go to a buffet style restaurant and Frank gets greens, he always uses this type of vinegar. I figured we could keep adding vinegar to the bottle for a long time. Do you know what type of peppers are in the bottle? Maybe we could grow some. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  16. Parsnip is another vegetable I would like to try growing, Janet. I have a very small row of kale growing next to the turnips, but the chickens are the only ones that are eating it now. We've tried a few leaves in a salad, but that's it. I seem to be having problems with aphids and kale, which surprises me this time of year. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  17. Agree with you folks,,, important to take the stem out & chop. I am in zone 7 and ours get frozen pretty quickly, before Christmas. Not this year…. we have put low tunnels over them,(pvc pipe stuck in ground 10 inches with polybond over)

  18. I have to agree with many of the suggestions from other commenters regarding the turnip greens. They are less bitter when picked young (small), take out the large center stem if using larger leaves. Cut or chop, place in a small amount of water to wilt. Then add additional water and cooking meat to season (salt pork, ham hock, streak of lean, your preference), and prepare to let them simmer covered for a long time. You may add dried red pepper if you like spice. I prefer them cooked until they are butter soft. Salt to taste. I also like to add the pepper sauce (peppers in vinegar) to the greens on my plate.I like the turnips themselves raw on occasion, but other wise the only way I have ever really enjoyed them was in a curry.judydee

  19. Hi Fern and Frank,My southern grandma cooked greens like Centenniel Magnolia. She sautéed fatback in a large pot and then added a mess of greens cut in ribbons with a little water. They cooked on low for hours. Sometimes she would dice the turnips up small and add them in with the greens to cook. we always ate greens with hot pepper vinegar and diced raw vidalia or other sweet onion. The pot likkor was delicious sopped up with cornbread or a hoe cake.

  20. We love turnip greens mixed with mustard greens. First we take the stalk out then cut the greens in smaller pieces, put them in a large pot, cover with water and boil for about 10 minutes, then grain the water off, this helps with the bitterness of the greens. Then add fresh water and cook till tender. You can add seasoning but I like mine plain and my hubby puts vinegar on his. I can and freeze greens every year. I can mine in pints. my hubby likes greens, pinto beans, salmon patties, onions, and cornbread as a meal.enjoy!Sue

  21. Chopping the greens before cooking makes them easier to cook and eat. A chiffonade cut would be good if you want to use them in a stir fry or stir fried with the sliced turnips. Since you list the nutrients of these foods you might want to include the fiber since it's so important to our health and also for some of the more important vitamins/minerals the % as in Vit A, C and calcium for the greens as the amounts are quite impressive. Thanks for such an informative blog I really enjoy reading it.

  22. If you use the smaller turnips, they aren't bitter at all, actually almost sweet. This is my favorite way way to eat turnips. I peel them, slice them thinly, soak in ice water for a bit to crisp them up and then sprinkle salt on them.

  23. Fern, my southern mother always cooked greens in a big stew pot, stuffing as many into the pot as would allow the lid to go on because they always cooked down to such a smaller quantity. I think she probably added some salt pork or fat back (I always get those two things confused), some salt and pepper, and several cups of water because they were going to cook on low heat for hours. They were good. Chopping them would help. Also, with turnip greens you can buy the bottle of hot pepper flavored vinegar at the grocery store and when you're serving them spinkle a little on the greens, making them much more flavorful. When the vinegar runs out, you just add more to the bottle of hot peppers until there's not enough flavor left to bother.We had a garden when we four siblings were kids. When we got our first tv, we'd lie down on the rug in front of the tv in the afternoons and watch the Lone Ranger or Superman (this was in the late 50's). Mama would cut up a variety of fruits and vegetables, including turnips from our garden, put them on plates on the floor in front of us, and we would absentmindedly eat everything on the plate without really being aware of what we were eating. It was her way of sneaking healthy foods into us.

  24. My grandma fried turnips and parsnips sliced thin in butter with salt and pepper. Very good. Kale is great wilted down and combined with ricotta cheese in lasagna. I have a lot of frozen kale in the freezer. It produces well in Michigan.

  25. Young turnips are delicious this way: peel, slice very thin, soak for about an hour in ice water, and drain. You may want to \”dry\” off the excess water, with a kitchen towel. Dip the turnip chips in your favorite sauce. We enjoy tomato sauce, melted cheese, or French onion dip. (Keep any leftovers, in water, in the refrigerator.)

  26. Hmm…that's a good idea, to chop the greens, Susan. I will have to convince Frank to try the kale or chard before I can sneak them into the greens. (-: We have eaten beet and mustard greens before, but not kale or chard. I can't picture what heavy cream would taste like on greens. My initial reaction is doubtful, but then again, it may be great! Thank you for sharing ideas.Fern

  27. I think they are just too bitter to eat raw, Marilyn. We have a friend that likes them that way, though. It must be an individual taste preference. I find that the chickens like most greens from the garden. They also get broccoli, kale and beet leaves on occasion since they are all still producing to some extent. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  28. According to what I have read, Grace, turnips will germinate down to 40 degrees. Since we have had temperatures in the 50's most days, you could give it a try. They will probably take much longer to come up, though, and I would choose a very sunny location. Let me know if it works. Thank you for the comment.Fern

  29. Something to try- chop the greens before cooking. They cook faster and are easier to chew. I find that combining them with kale or chard is better too. And for a special treat, add a bit of heavy cream just before serving.

  30. as you know , I lost my turnip crop to aphids this year . Wonder if I could plant more now . Do you think they would come up ? Stay safe

  31. Fern, you might try eating the turnips in the raw state. Just peel and slice. That is my favorite way to eat them although turnips are never at the top of my veggie list. We are zone 6a here in SW Missouri. Spinach does well over winter and, of course, garlic. This year I still have Brussels Sprouts but they were late getting set out and have not grown well and I doubt we will be eating any of them. Will try harder next year. The chickens are getting a couple of those big leaves every couple days so not all is lost. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all the information I have received from you and Frank. Marilyn in SW MO

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