French navets, small
round, squashed shaped turnips tinged with pink or purple, are
increasingly available in greengrocers and supermarkets in the spring.
Less common, but even more prized by the French, are the long
carrot-shaped turnips, called vertus. English turnips are
generally larger and are mainly green and white. Both have the
characteristic peppery flavor, but this is less pronounced in navets
which are generally sweeter. Swedes generally have a more substantial,
fuller-bodied flavor than turnips but at their best have a subtle,
pleasant taste. The Marian is a yellow fleshed variety with a distinct "swede"
flavor. White fleshed swedes, like Merrick, have a more watery,
Buying and Storing : If possible, buy
French navets or failing that, the smallest and youngest turnips,
available in the shops from spring. They should be firm, smooth and
unblemished, ideally with fresh green tops. Store in a cool dry place.
As for swedes, it is unlike turnips, as it generally seem to come large.
However, if possible, choose small swedes with smooth and unblemished
skins as large ones are likely to be tough and fibrous. Store as for
Preparing and Cooking : Young turnips
should not need peeling, simply trim, then simmer or steam until tender.
They are delicious raw, thinly sliced or grated into salads. Peel older
turnips and then slice or dice before cooking. Remember, turnips are
members of the cabbage family and older specimens particularly can show
signs of that unpleasant cabbage rankness if overcooked. To avoid this,
blanch turnips if they are to be served as a vegetable dish, or add
sparingly to soups and casseroles, so that the rank flavor is dispersed.
For swedes, peel to remove the skin and then cut into chunks. Swedes
will disintegrate if overcooked, and they are unpleasantly raw tasting
if not cooked sufficiently. The only answer is to check frequently while
they are cooking. Swedes are particularly good when teamed with other
root vegetables in soups and casseroles, adding a pleasant, slightly