The humble turnip is the winner. Fern and I have been married a little over three decades, and we tried turnips at least once a decade. The first time, when we were in college, we were financially poor. One day at the grocery store, we bought a turnip. We took that thing home, cut it up in little chunks, boiled it up like you would mashed potatoes, added butter, salt, and pepper, took one bite, and that was it. That was basically how it went for three decades.
A couple of years back, a man brought a bunch of turnips to church, fresh out of the ground. That was the third decade. So, we basically came to the conclusion that turnips, to our palates, offer an undesirable experience.
But, one day while at the local feed store, the owner was out planting turnips in his pasture. Never having been shy in the
question pool, I asked him why. After getting that look, that you normally get when you realize you have just asked the most unbelievably stupid question, he told me that his cattle would eat the greens all winter long if he would rotate his pastures. Okay. I’m a big city boy, but I’ve been around cattle on and off now for about 30 years, and I’m used to that look from these all-knowing country fellows. But I had still never heard of what he was talking about. So, Fern and I did a little research and found that this was a common technique from days gone by. You see, he uses techniques that were used before every farmer had their own hay equipment and a 500 gallon diesel tank. But it works for him and he doesn’t buy, bale, haul, store or use the diesel to produce hay. He rotates pastures and grows turnips. Well, actually he doesn’t grow turnips, he grows the greens.
Well, at the same time, since Fern and I have a pretty good idea what’s coming in the future, we have been looking into different forms of feed for livestock when the commercial grain is gone. Interesting as it is, we humans have very short memories. People did feed their animals before commercial grains came along. Most livestock are more than happy to eat turnips, rutabagas, beets, sunflower seeds, carrots and a large variety of things that we don’t take the time to produce anymore because grains are so cheap. But the fact of the matter is, these animals stomachs are not designed to process grain. They are designed to process not only the greens from these vegetables, but also the vegetables growing in the ground themselves.
To make a long story longer, when we were putting our garden to sleep this year, we decided to plant some turnips, carrots and beets on an experimental basis to see if the livestock would eat them. I’m going to focus on turnips here. We are still feeding our chickens turnip greens which they love. We are also starting to feed them the turnip itself, which they happily devour. We also grew and dried some corn this year. You give the chickens dried corn and a turnip, the corn will sit there and not get eaten, but the turnip will be gone.
Now, onto the goats. They will happily consume the turnip greens, and if we chop up the turnip itself, some of our goats will eat them and some of them won’t. But they also know that a bucket of grain is coming, too. It’s kind of like feeding a child, you make the child eat what you want them to eat, then they get desert. Having read the history of goats and turnips, I have no doubt that when the grain is gone, they will be happy to eat turnips. On a side note here, if your goats are expecting babies, be careful changing your feed ration during gestation.
Now, on to the crux of the story. I have always liked turnip greens, Fern has not. There is a lady at church that fixes up a big batch of turnip greens once a month at our potlucks. I get a big scoop, and now, Fern does too. What has caused this change and revelation? Well, one day we decided to cook some turnips, and we got the same results we have gotten for three decades now. Fern mentioned it in the post The Nutrition of Turnips, and a reader posted a very interesting comment. They said we needed to peel all of the outer layer off and it would remove the bitterness from the turnip. “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.”
|Look at the line just beyond the knife tip.|
We tried it. It is easy to see the line between the outer peel and the inner core, which had escaped our recognition up until now, because we were not looking for it. Now, I know this is comparing turnips to oranges, but imagine eating the peel of an orange, while you’re eating the orange. Now we peel the turnips, and they are actually a very pleasant vegetable.
That tells us that we can grow a much larger plot of turnips to feed chickens, goats and humans, not to mention the pigs coming in the future, but that’s a different story. The turnip is a good food, the greens and the bulb are highly nutritious, and we eat them very similar to potatoes. Soups, stews, and guess what, mashed with butter, salt and pepper. But it was that one comment from a reader that changed our perspective, and relationship to the turnip. This causes us to ponder the possibilities. Are there other things in life that could, with a very simple modification, affect the way we live and do business daily? The possibilities are endless.
Fern talks about learning something everyday. We asked a couple of our friends if they knew that they could peel a turnip and remove the bitter part. Neither one of them had ever heard of it. So, how many other products are out there that we don’t consider or would never consider, that with just the smallest change on our part, could become an integral part of our lives? No pun intended here, but it’s certainly food for thought.
I guess the reason that this is important to us is we have had at our fingertips for years, and didn’t know it, the ability to feed our livestock, but most importantly, feed ourselves. Yes, I know it’s a turnip, so what’s the big philosophical deal? The big deal is that this has opened up a new window for us. There may come a day someday, maybe someday soon, where that turnip may save our lives. We are excited to have learned how to grow this plant successfully. I can see where it’s going to be a major addition to our future lifestyle. It’s easy to grow, very few pests, really easy to harvest, it will provide us with greens, turnips, eggs, chicken meat, milk, butter, cream, red meat and cheese, all from the humble turnip. And in the future, it may provide us with pork chops and lard. Of course, don’t forget beets, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips and cowpeas. It’s opened our eyes and minds.
We’ll talk more later. Frank