A small round root vegetable, about the size of a large ping pong ball, turnips have delicate nutty sweetness with a peppery kick. They are actually a member of the brassica (cabbage) family, and have edible leaves. White, with pale purple or white shading, they should not be confused with the orange-coloured swede.
Look for young smaller turnips which will be sweet and crisp. Anything larger than a tennis ball will be coarsely textured and have a watery flavour. Avoid any that feel spongy or are wrinkled – a sure sign of age.
Unless the turnips are very small, peel, then dice into small chunks and drop into acidulated water (water with a squeeze of lemon juice) to prevent discoloration. Boil in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain then toss in melted butter in a frying pan until brown and caramelised- delicious served with a Sunday roast. Turnips can also be boiled until very tender- about 20 minutes, then mashed with lots of butter. Toss strips of boiled turnip in olive oil and then roast for 40 minutes. Thinly sliced turnips are also delicious eaten raw in salad recipes. Turnip tops (the leaves) can be cooked like spring greens, lightly cooked in boiling water or stir fried. They taste great as 1 of your 5 a day in an Irish stew.
Turnips will keep in a cool dry place for up to 1 month.