Turnips, Rutabagas and Kohlrabi



Most cooks think of turnips only in winter, but I reach for them all year long. Whether braised in stews or simmering in soups, slivered into salads or simply sliced and nibbled raw, turnips deserve your attention. They are sweet and juicy, crisp and tart–they have a mild mustardy undertone that is characteristic of their cruciferous lineage. Raw turnips have a crunch that makes them a perfect stand-in for carrots or cabbage. Small, firm turnips with good skins are usually the best.


I don’t understand why rutabagas don’t get more love in mainstream dining. Maybe we should start a rutabaga renaissance. Rutabagas have so much character–they are starchy, fruity and nutty. Slice them thin, roast them slightly until soft and they take on a beautiful, silky texture.


Kohlrabi isn’t even a root vegetable, but it sure looks like a turnip or rutabaga, only light green or at certain times of the year, purple in color. Kohlrabi grows above the ground with long stems that protrude from the bulb that make it look like it flew in from outer space. This modern vegetable, in the Brassica family, is traditional in the Midwest where immigrants of central and northern European descent typically use them in salads julienned with apples or in slaw. Kohlrabi is sweet, chewy and grown year-round, making it one of our local favorites.


Winter citrus is still the best bet for seasonal dessert menus. We love blood oranges with their ruby color and raspberry overtones. Meyer lemons, kumquats and Mandarinquats are in their prime bursting with flavor. Minneola tangelos and Kishu mandarins are the “tangerines” of choice. Minneolas are a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. This late ripening seedless tangerine is perfectly sweet this time of year and great for sorbets or granitas. Pixie tangerines will come next. Cara Cara oranges are superb. Bergamot and sour Seville orange season has begun. All of these varietals are seasonal and not available year round. The peak of the varietal citrus season is December to late February and into March. After that, the number of locally grown varietals drops off.


Three grapefruit-like citrus varieties that have caught on are Oroblanco, Melo Gold and Lavender Gems. Oroblancos are a cross between a white grapefruit and a low acid pomelo, while Melo Gold grapefruit are bred from a white grapefruit and a regular pomelo. New this week are Lavender Gems which is yet another hybrid of white grapefruit and tangelos. Another variety that is gaining interest is the cocktail grapefruit, which is a cross between a pomelo and a Frua mandarin. The cocktail grapefruit is available November through February, and its flavor is less acidic and much sweeter than regular grapefruit. They all are wonderful! Get them while they last!!