Turnip greens: not as boring as I thought
That was my first thought when I picked up our CSA box yesterday. This week brought us lettuce, arugula, stir-fry mix and chard, but we’re still wading through last week’s head of cabbage and an impulse bag of Brussels sprouts that I picked up to supplement our already-bursting vegetable drawer.
A generous bundle of Tokyo turnips, greens attached, lay heavily at the bottom of our vegetable menagerie. Typically I twist their tops off and into the compost they go …except that we don’t have compost anymore. And it makes me feel sad to put a huge pile of edible greens in the trash, when they came all the way from Dixon just for me. I decided to see what I could do with them.
I’ve been wary of cooking up just any old greens ever since I volunteered for an organic farmer a few summers ago in Illinois. At the farmer’s market one day, a couple holding a baby asked me whether carrot greens were edible. “I don’t see why not!” I said, and merrily sent them on their way. Later I found out that carrot tops are a controversial ingredient; some people eat them with reckless abandon, while others insist they’re toxic. Oh, my. I dearly hope they didn't grind up a bunch of toxic carrot tops for baby that night after I gave them the green light. So to speak.
I’d never cooked turnip greens before, so I had to do a little research first. The leaves are studded with tiny pricklies that seemed to require a bit more than a quick sauté. I ended up using this recipe, more or less, but I boiled the greens for about five minutes before proceeding through the other steps.
The results were great! Turnip greens have a natural spiciness to them but lack that stringiness you sometimes find in spinach and chard. Mine came out very tender, and the smokiness of the bacon and the creamy egg complemented them well; it brought to mind that great culinary classic, the spinach salad with warm bacon dressing.
With my foray into the land of turnip tops, I guess I just set us up with even MORE greens to eat each week. But that’s hardly a bad thing, especially when bacon is involved.