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Preparing and Cooking Turnips and Swedes

Preparing and Cooking Turnips and Swedes

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, turnip-like flavor.

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 turnips.

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 nutty flavor.

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