12.13.2012

The Local Food Report: all in the turnip family

Thank you, everyone, for all of your input on the Broccoli Problem. It's nice to know that this is a space where we can address these sorts of things and help each other, as a community, to move forward.

In other good news—rejoice vegetable variety enthusiasts!—local markets seem to be rapidly acquiring new (old) members of the turnip family.


That up there is the Scarlet Ohno. I bumped into it at Weston Lant's stand at the Falmouth Farmers' Market, and it is a beaut. In every seed catalog description I've read it's described as a "revival" seed, which refers to the fact that it was reselected from seeds of a Japanese variety by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seeds. (Seed savers reselect each year—letting the biggest or sweetest or pinkest turnip, or the turnip with whatever other trait they're looking for—go to seed. Then they save the seeds from only these plants to create a new strain.) It's sweet and mild and crisp, and it has hairless, shiny leaves—unusual for a turnip.

Lant also grows rutabagas, called yellow turnips or Swedes, for Swedish turnips. They're a cross between a turnip and a cabbage, and they have the same purple top as Macombers. They're sweeter and creamier than most turnips, and they make a mean Parmesan mash or Rosemary fry

Finally, in new (old) varieties, there's the Hakurei turnip. It's a Japanese variety, very small and smooth and sweet. It was developed in Japan in the 1950s, and full grown, Hakureis are about the size and shape of Cherry Bell radishes. Seed catalogs call them salad turnips, apt since they're best for slicing and eating fresh. But they're also good pickled and excellent roasted or mashed.

Frankly, all these turnip family varieties seem like a good sign for the local food movement. We need all the choice we can get, particularly in the winter, and it's nice to see local farmers reviving old root vegetables to keep us fed. 

Do you grow a favorite turnip or rutabaga? And more importantly, do you like French fries

I thought so.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.