FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER, THERE WERE TURNIPS IN MY LIFE. Lets hear it for long term memory. It helped that I grew up in a gardening community in the sunny firtile south. Greens were a staple in our diet. Turnips, mustard and collards were the central trinity of the leafy green stuff.

I have missed turnips on my diet since moving to Maine over 30 years ago. I can’t explain it. I’ve grown a lot of things to eat but until this year never a turnip.

I need to make something clear. When talking about the lowly turnip there are the green tops and the rather zippy tasting root bulb. In the markets you can on occasion find the root in the vegetable bin. I have never seen turnip greens in a market in New England. But of course, there are many markets into which I have never stepped.

Growing turnips involves about 40 to 50 days for mature plants. They are cool weather plants permitting an early crop and a late one as well if timed right.
Turnips are very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Vitamin B6, Calcium, Phosphorus and Manganese, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C and Potassium. Wow! This is a real power food.

So, to be clear, I grow them for the tops. I eat the roots but its the leafy tops that are the prize. I wash them well and pinch the leaves into bits about and inch or two across. Wash them very well. Even clean the leaves will seem to be rough with grime but it’s just the nature of the plant.

Traditionalists will begin with a slice of salt pork in the pot and that makes for a wonderful flavor but it isn’t necessary to do that. I do sauté some garlic in OVOO and then lay in about half a nice sized sweet onion sliced or chopped, then pile on the greens with the pealed and quartered roots. About an inch or two of water or stock in the pot should do it. Add a dash of sugar – not too much, about half a teaspoon should work. Add some salt and pepper. I also love some heat which is provided with some flacked dried red peppers or Cajun seasoning. You’ll figure it out. Any kind of pepper sauce or Tabasco on the table, of course, is recommended.

These tender greens are a great accompaniment to anything and can, with a wedge of hot cornbread, verily make the heart sing. Though I have no specific data to support it, I am sure that combination covers all the basic food groups.