A few years ago, I worked for the Intervale Center as a farming consultant for the New Farms for New Americans program run by the Association of Africans Living in Vermont. My job was to help new Americans, primarily refugees from Bhutan, Somalia, and Burundi, in finding markets for their beautiful produce and to help them understand and navigate the vagaries of our cold climate, on-line seed purchases, calendar planning, etc. Most of the time, probably all of the time, I was the one doing the learning. It is an experience I look back on fondly and feel thankful that I was able to get to know these smart gardeners and farmers. Every time I walk into Stone Soup in Burlington and see braised Hakueri turnips at the hot bar, I think of Michel and François who established a long term relationship with the restaurant by growing these perfect and tender roots. They still grow and sell them for Avery and Tim at Stone Soup, and it all started with a face to face meeting, in 3 languages, a seed catalog, and a warm feeling or two.
A fitting Thanksgiving side dish, don't you think?
Braised Hakurei Turnips with Thyme
Serves 6 as a side dish
1.5 pounds Hakurei turnips, the small white ones. About 2 bunches
6 healthy sprigs of thyme (about 1/2 a clamshell package or 1/3 of a bunch)
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut off the greens, but save them for another use. They are delicious!
Wash and scrub the turnips and cut into halves or quarters, depending on size. If very small (1 to 1.5 inch in diameter, leave whole). Each piece should be about 2 bites worth.
Add turnips to a medium saucepan with water and salt and thyme.
Bring to a boil, and immediately lower the heat to medium-low. A strong simmer, low boil. Leave the pot covered for 6 to 10 minutes. When the turnips are tender but not mushy, uncover the pot, add the butter and honey, and gently shake the pan to mix. Cook another 5 or so minutes until the water is mostly evaporated and the turnips are cooked through but not falling apart. Remove the thyme sprigs.
Taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly.
Want to grow your own?
If you haven't grown your own white turnips, consider it for next year. They are easy to grow, last long into the fall, and are sweet and delicious. While rutabaga and traditional purple-topped turnips have their own charms, these white "salad" turnips are delicate, sweet, and can be eaten raw or cooked.
For a fall crop, sow seeds of Hakurei turnips directly into a shallow furrow in the garden in mid-August. They prefer loose, deep soil that drains well. A little compost is always a good idea, but not too much as it can stain them or create crooked growth. When the plants are a couple of inches tall, thin to 1 plant every 2 to 3 inches. Keep well watered. That's it. They are a perfect crop to follow an earlier planting of peas or beans or lettuces or greens.