Turnips and Rutabaga





In Canada we do love the change of seasons, and we welcome the onset of cool and cold weather for so many reasons, not the least of which is a change in our menus. In these climes, fall means root vegetables like turnips and rutabaga.

Maybe you’ve had all the Caprese salads you can handle for a while, or you need a break from the ol’ barbecue, the novelty gets a little old this time of year. Cool November temperatures have us thinking cozy thoughts and images of digging into pots of stews, and roasts and roasted root vegetables, big bowls of mashed potatoes and rutabaga in the centre of the table and mason jars of pickled turnip.




Growing up, we had turnip quite often, or so I thought; it was truly a staple as one average sized turnip, chopped and boiled and then mashed made a great side dish for the whole family. It wasn’t until I left home that I discovered that it wasn’t turnip that had been gracing our table all those years but rather rutabaga! Rutabaga and turnip are indeed similar vegetables, close relatives in the Brassica family that also includes cabbages. In fact, a rutabaga is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. And to add to the confusion, rutabagas, large, deep-yellow and kind of gnarly wax-covered root-vegetables are often sold and marketed as turnips, or “yellow turnips” or “wax turnips.”

A turnip, on the other hand, is smaller than its cousin rutabaga. It has a white interior with a delicate flavor reminiscent of cabbage, whereas the rutabaga has a deeper and sweeter flavor with a golden yellow flesh. We like our rutabagas large, but our turnips small; larger turnips tend to become a little woody and dry, so when selecting a turnip pick one that is less than five inches across and feels heavy.




Both turnips and rutabagas are great food choices; they are both high in calcium, potassium, phosphorous and magnesium as well as vitamins C, folate and niacin. In addition to being high in fibre and low in calories, they are easy on the pocketbook, which is always nice, and whether they are mashed, or cubed and tossed into a stew, munched on raw, shredded into a coleslaw or pickled, they taste great. You’re not going to see them on many menus in the dog days of summer, but when it comes to the comfort foods of the fall and winter, turnips and rutabaga where where it’s at.

Here is a super simple but delicious recipe for Turnip Purée from Lynn Crawford’s new cookbook, Farm to Chef.  Chef Lynn serves it as a side with Juniper-Roasted Venison Loin, but it would be amazing with roast pork or beef as well, not to mention right at home in a vegetarian feast as well. If you think mashed turnip is ho-hum, this little stunner, perfect for so many occasions will definitely change your mind!

 Turnip Purée (serves 4)

1 lb turnip, peeled and diced

2 cups whole milk

1 cup water

Kosher salt

½ to ¾ cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper


  1. In a large saucepan combine turnips, milk, water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes, or until turnips are very soft.
  2. Drain turnips and transfer to a blender. Add half a cup cream and the butter and purée until smooth, adding more cream if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.

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