The Local Food Report: Macomber turnips

There is a plaque planted on the side of Main Road in Westport:

For those of you who aren't into squinting, the basic gist is this. A long time ago, back in 1876, two brothers from Westport went to Philadelphia for the Centennial Exposition. It was a huge fair—it went on from May 10th to November 10th and had almost 10 million visitors!—and it showcased everything from art to industry to innovations in farming. The brothers, Aiden and Elihu Macomber, got hung up on a turnip variety descended from Swedish and Russian rutabagas that was called Pure Bristol White. They brought the seeds home, the turnip variety flourished in Westport soil, and people have been crazy for Macomber turnips ever since.

I first tried one the other day, at the Falmouth Farmers' Market. Patricia Gadsby, the market organizer, introduced me to it, and said it's one of her favorite winter treats. She says it has the sweetness of a rutabaga, the crispness of a radish, and the pure white flesh of a turnip. She likes it cooked, mashed up and aerated with a stick blender into an almost mousse-like substance. Or roasted. Or sautéed and served alongside seafood. Or even raw! in a salad!

Patricia found the raw salad recipe the other day, over here in the New York Times. It called for raw turnips, peeled and shaved very, very thin, and tossed with arugula and prosciutto. Patricia recommended it, and I tried it, and I can tell you that it's a revelation. No more cooking-only for turnips. This salad is sweet, crisp, and fresh, everything that winter generally is not. It turns root vegetable rules on their heads, and for that I applaud it.

Have you tried the Macomber, anyone?


Capetaylor said...

I made this salad for a potluck supper yesterday, and it was delicious! I used arugula, and small white and red sweet turnips (not sure they were Macomber) I bought at the winter market at Plimoth Plantation.
Is there a local source for prosciutto though?

diaryofatomato said...

Gilfeather turnips have been my favorite, but now I'll be on the look-ou for the Macomber!

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