These gorgeous, delicious Hakurei turnips are also known as Salad Turnips or Japanese Turnips and are a wonderful farmers market season crop that often shows up around early Spring and last through middle to end of summer depending on where you live. The purpose of my #ProduceInfluencer posts and newsletters are to encourage you to confidently bring home seasonal produce to integrate into your colorFULLife. Variety is an important and often overlooked component or a healthy body, which is why I will always advocate to count colors, try new things, and eat the rainbow regularly!
I know we all (myself included) get into food ruts where we buy the same ol’ broccoli, carrots, onions, lettuce, rinse and repeat for months on end. Especially if you’re focusing specifically on eliminating grains, sugar and dairy during a Whole30, finding new and delicious ways to make food fun and exciting is so important. If you see how easy it can be to make them, I hope you’ll smile instead of groan and rise to the challenge to bring variety, flavor, diversity to your plate and your palate!
A Brief History of the Hakurei Turnip
Turnips are part of the brassica family which you may also know by the name ‘cruciferous’ along with broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and collards. Turnips have been traced back to Roman times and have a rich history of feeding people! The Hakurei turnips, aka salad turnips however, are special and were developed recently in the 1950’s as a way to feed the Japanese people during food shortages following World War II.
I have been snacking on these for years and singing their praises whenever I could. People always thought I was a little weird (just to clarify I totally am, but this is not the reason why). I hope to help you cultivate a love and appreciation for this little delicious bulbous veggie that you can continue to spread! They LOOK like radishes but they do not taste like radishes. Let’s dig in!
What am I looking for when sourcing the Hakurei turnips?
Ideally, they are in bunches with bright white bulbous roots attached to vibrant healthy leafy greens. The turnips seem to be most tender and sweet when they are a golf ball size or smaller.
Can you eat the Hakurei turnips Raw
YES, and I highly recommend you do. It’s the easiest way to enjoy them and my preferred experience. When you’re working with a new piece of produce I think it’s important to try it raw so that you can experience it in the natural state before you get creative in preparing it.
Do you have to peel the turnips?
No, and I recommend you do not. The skin is completely subtle, edible and food that is grown in rich soil is good for your gut health. Don’t make things harder than they need to be! These are the perfect little snack package, and unlike the manmade and in my opinion, totally foul baby carrots, these are nature’s baby veggie ready to roll in its natural state.
What are some differences between the more common purple top turnip and the Hakurei turnip/ salad turnip?
Most everything is different between the two, so if you’ve long written off the common turnip, don’t write off the Hakurei variety quite yet!
The purple top turnips are grown partially in soil, with the tops peaking above resulting in the gradient color purple to white bottoms and are often much larger in size compared to the salad turnips. The entire common turnip plant is also edible from the root to the tops.
If you’re working with a very young, fresh common purple top turnip root that is small in size you can julienne it and use in a cole slaw capacity for a fresh crunchy texture. This is the only circumstance in which I’d recommend using a common turnip in a raw application because although you can eat the turnip root raw it is often peppery, bitter, and the skin is pretty sharp and leathery in texture. Personally, none of those descriptors really appeal to me.
It is much more common to eat the common turnip peeled and cooked where the natural sweetness is revealed. Common preparations of the turnip root include roasting, mashing, and subbing them for potatoes in soups, stews. Turnip greens can be used in place of any sauteed greens or soup additions.
What do the Hakurei salad turnips taste like?
Magic. Ok, ok, ummm…objectively, they are mild in flavor, sweet, crunchy, refreshing, a wee bit of tang when raw but absolutely no bitterness, no sharpness unlike even a mild radish. When they are cooked they are sweet and buttery without any additional components so I’d recommend sticking to a simple preparation because they don’t need ‘glazes’ or sweeteners to shine as many recipes would suggest.
What do the salad turnip greens taste like?
My two favorite greens in the world are always overlooked, number one are beet greens which are so often hacked off like the afterthought. These salad turnip greens are a close second favorite over any kale, spinach, dandelion, or any other one you’re thinking of right now. The salad turnip greens wilt up quickly, and the stems produce an incredible texture that lend itself well for a last minute stir fry addition. The flavor is mild and sweet even when they are raw.
How to store salad turnips
The best way to store the salad turnip and their greens for longevity is separately from one another. Like most produce, the enemy here is moisture. I love using my Colony Co produce bags at the market. The cloth lends itself to keeping the goods fresher for longer over plastic which just has the produce locked into the naturally occuring moisture. First, cut the greens from the roots. Wrap the greens in a clean dry dish towel. Put the salad turnips into a produce bag with a paper towel to wick up any moisture. They never last long in our house but will stay fresh stored this way for at least a week.
How to revive the salad turnip greens
Basically the idea is to flash hydrate them with cold water to shock them back to life! First remove any funky / slimy / blackened pieces, then submerge in ice water until they are shocked into bright, perky, revived buds. Only keep them in as long as it takes to get revived. Timing will depend on how wilty / hearty they are. Remove, blot very dry and use the same day.
Quick Raw ideas for salad turnips
Raw, quick, easy ways to incorporate these veggies that don’t require a recipe are:
- Eat it like a tiny tiny apple
- Slice the turnip in half and dip into guacamole, ranch, babaganoush, hummus
- Slice into coins and use as the base for a finger food appetizer topping it off with your preferred dip or protein
- Slice in any way and add to green salads for a pop of texture and color
Quick ideas for salad turnip greens
Quick, easy ways to incorporate these greens that don’t require a recipe are:
- Chop them roughly and add them to a green salad to make a ‘mixed green’ salad
- Add them into soups, stews in place of kale or spinach
- Sautee them with simple garlic, olive oil, pepper, salt as a side
- Add them to a stir fry towards the very end to wilt and add color
- Puree them into a smoothie, soup, or baby food puree
- Add them to a cold sandwich, or as a colorful delicious element to a hot sandwich or sub