What are Turnip Greens?

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  • Written By: N. Lennon
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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Turnip greens are the leaves of the turnip plant, Brassica rapa. The turnip is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes broccoli, cabbage, and mustard. Both the root and leaves of the turnip were much favored by the ancient Greeks and Romans, who developed and bred a number of new varieties. It has been cultivated for almost 4,000 years.

The turnip came to North America with the European colonists. During the 18th and 19th centuries, plantation owners would typically reserve the turnip roots for themselves, giving the leaves to their slaves. Many of the slaves were of West African origin and their traditional cooking employed a wide variety of greens, of which turnip greens became a substitute. In modern times, these greens remain an important ingredient in Southern regional cooking. Turnips and their greens are also enjoyed in Europe, although European turnip consumption saw a decrease following widespread acceptance of the imported potato in the 19th century.


Smaller and more tender than other commonly used greens, such as collard or mustard, turnip greens are also milder in flavor. They can be used fairly interchangeably in any recipe that calls for fresh spinach or other greens and can make a tasty addition to casseroles, such as vegetarian lasagna. The greens can be quickly sauteed, either alone or with other vegetables or grains. Stored in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator, washed greens will usually remain fresh for three to four days.

Nutritionally, turnip greens are considered an excellent source of nutrients, especially vitamins C, E, B6, and K, as well as minerals, such as copper, calcium, and manganese. The beta-carotene found in turnip greens may be protective against rheumatoid arthritis, since one of its functions is to support the proper function of the immune system. It may also assist the body in maintaining healthy membranes, including the synovial membrane lining the joints.

Vitamins C and E in turnip greens work together to slow free radicals that may exacerbate joint damage. Calcium in the greens can be useful in preventing or slowing bone loss. As a source of copper, these greens may be helpful to people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, as copper is necessary for the production of connective tissue that is damaged by the autoimmune condition. Turnip greens also supply dietary fiber, which is helpful not only in regulating elimination but in maintaining colon health as well.


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Post 4

@carrotisland: You can absolutely eat the turnip. If you buy your turnip greens from a grocery store, the turnip is usually bought separately. Turnips need to be washed thoroughly, just as you would wash the greens. You can peel the turnip if the skin doesn’t look so hot. If the skin is okay, you can brush them under running water and keep the skin on.

Many people enjoy eating the turnips raw. If you are eating them raw, they are better young because the larger ones have a strong flavor.

You can cut your turnip into cubes and stir-fry them with other vegetables. You could steam them and then mash them with rutabagas. Many people add them to soup.

Post 3

Do you eat the root part of the turnip greens? If so, how would you eat it? Do you cook it?

Post 2

@grumpyguppy: Growing up, my mother was the same way about turnip greens; soak and wash at least three times. That is not necessarily the way you have to do it though. They do, however, need super cleaning because leafy vegetables are prone to catching pesticides and other chemicals.

Make sure your sink is very clean without any soap residue. Fill the sink with water. Agitate the greens gently with your hands to circulate the water thoroughly. Every leaf should be submerged. Let them sit for about 5 minutes to allow any additional dirt to settle to the bottom of the sink. Put them in a pot and let them soak for about 20 minutes. I repeat the process once just

to be sure that they are nice and clean.

Pick your leaves out one or two at a time and tear them into the size you want. You can rinse them once again if you choose. Put the greens in a colander to drain.

Post 1

How do you prepare and cook turnip greens? Someone told me that you have to wash them and soak them three times before cooking.

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