Turnips + Greens = Nutritional Powerhouse

TurnipsSome things are just better together: Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly, Simon and Garfunkel, wine and cheese. Another remarkable duo? Turnips and their nutritious greens.

On its own, a turnip is a decent source of several key nutrients. But when considered with its greens, it turns from a decent source into a downright amazing one. We’re talking superfood status. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to eat everything at the same time to reap all the benefits, but you do need to “heed the greens.”

Why eat a turnip? The low-calorie root — only 30 per cooked cup — is a treasure trove of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber. Standout nutrients include vitamin C (about 40 percent of our daily needs) and fiber (around 3 grams). Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, is a tissue-builder, immune-booster and workhorse scavenger of harmful free radicals—age-accelerating agents that have been linked to inflammation, certain cancers and other chronic diseases. Fiber is good for bowel health, helps control blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol levels, and keeps us feeling fuller longer.

Another reason to eat this slightly peppery bulb? As a member of the nutritious cruciferous family, turnips are loaded with unique sulfur-containing compounds that may help the body fight cancer.

Why eat a turnip’s greens? The leafy greens, much like kale and beet greens, rock with vitamins A, K and C — all mighty antioxidants that burst with a variety of other health benefits. Vitamin A is essential for growth and healthy vision; vitamin K helps maintain strong bones and regulates normal blood clotting; and vitamin C’s merits are listed above. One cup of cooked greens also provides a decent amount of fiber (5 grams) and folate, an important B vitamin that helps form red blood cells and produce DNA.

Another reason to eat the greens? They offer up some calcium — about 20 percent of our daily needs in one cooked cup. Calcium helps form and maintain healthy bones and teeth, and also plays a major role in the regulation of heart rate and rhythm.

Braised Turnips with Wilted Greens
Adapted from Cooking Light

6 small (or 3 medium) turnips, trimmed and peeled
1 bunch turnip greens (from above bulbs or purchased separately)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup water or salt-reduced stock
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Fresno pepper, slivered (optional)
1 teaspoon honey

Cut turnips into bite-size chunks. Wash and coarsely chop or tear the greens.

Remove the stems if they are tough.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turnips and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add water or stock, vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until turnips are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high and stir in greens. Cook for two minutes and then add garlic and Fresno pepper (if using). Cook for another two to three minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces by three-fourths. Turn off heat, blend in honey, and serve.

Helpful tips:

Choose small to medium size turnips that are heavy for their size: the smaller the bulb, the sweeter the flavor. Look for greens that are crisp and deep green in color. If you buy turnips with their greens attached, remove them from the root when you get home. Store roots and greens in separate plastic bags and place in the refrigerator. Greens should last about four days; roots will keep for about two weeks, sometimes longer.

Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at avpalumbo@aol.com.