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Turnip is a vegetable that adapts very well to cold climates. It belongs to the Cruciferous family, which includes 380 genera and some 3,000 species typical of temperate or cold regions of the northern hemisphere. The importance of this family of vegetables, to which cabbages and watercress also belong, is that they contain sulfur compounds considered powerful antioxidants that help prevent diseases.
Origin and varieties
The turnip is believed to be native to Europe, although it has also been proposed as a possible center of Central Asian origin. It is believed that it was the basis of the diet of the primitive tribes that populated Europe. It was cultivated for the first time almost four millennia ago and was later highly appreciated by the Greeks and Romans. Both civilizations developed new varieties from the wild turnip. During the Middle Ages, the turnip was one of the most important foods. It was consumed almost daily in Germany until it was displaced by the potato when, in the 18th century, it reached Europe from America. Since the French Revolution, more potatoes and fewer turnips were grown in Europe until it became an almost forgotten food.
Although the turnip is not highly appreciated, its cultivation has spread throughout the world, especially as feed for livestock. It is grown especially in Germany, on the Mediterranean coast of southern Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the southern United States. However, both the root and the leaves of the turnip are once again gaining prominence in our days after knowing their composition and properties better.
The most notable varieties of turnips are:
Nabito de Teltow: is one of the most appreciated, small in size and creamy white.
May turnip: as its name suggests, it is available in the market from May to June. It is white and spherical in shape.
Fall turnip: variety that is sown in summer and harvested in autumn. It has red or green skin and white meat. Its size is larger than that of the mayo turnip and its flavor is stronger.
Stanis turnips: It has a purple neck, medium leaves and good texture.
Virtudes-Hammer turnips: These varieties are white in color and elongated in shape with a narrowing in the central area. Its meat is white, very tender and sweet.
Snowball turnip: It has a round shape and is small (eight centimeters in diameter), with a smooth, very white skin, tender and with a delicate flavor.
Japanese turnip or kabu: its flavor is more intense than other turnips and can only be found in specialized stores.
His best time
Due to the varieties that exist today of turnips, they can be bought at any time of the year, but it is in autumn when they become more prominent in our markets.
Shape : it can have a rounded, flattened or cylindrical shape.
Size and weight : the size of the turnip depends on the variety, between 12 and 15 centimeters in length. Its average weight is about 100-200 grams.
Color : its flesh, white or yellowish in color, is covered by a thin yellow or white skin that, on occasions, can present a red, green or purple color at the end top.
Taste : its flavor is similar to that of cabbage, but somewhat sweeter.
How to choose and keep it
On the market, turnips of small or medium size should be chosen, with smooth skin, rounded, firm and heavy in relation to their size, white to violet in color. If sold in bundles, the collars should have a fresh green appearance.
On the contrary, specimens that are too large in size, with marks on the skin or with fibrous roots will be rejected. Once at home, it is convenient to remove the leaves. The roots are kept in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator. They can be kept in good condition for one to three weeks.
It is advisable not to wash the turnips until they are eaten to avoid nutritional losses of vitamins and minerals. They can also be kept frozen, as long as they are blanched beforehand in boiling water for a couple of minutes.
Turnip is a vegetable with a low caloric intake because it has abundant amounts of water and a low content of carbohydrates and is a good source of fiber.
Regarding the vitamin content, it provides an appreciable amount of vitamin C, vitamin B3 and folates, and discrete amounts of B group vitamins (B6, B1 and B2). It lacks provitamin A and vitamin E, abundant in other greens and vegetables.
Vitamin C, in addition to having a powerful antioxidant action, is involved in the formation of collagen, bones, teeth and red blood cells. It also favors the absorption of iron from food and resistance to infections.
Vitamin B3 intervenes in different phases of the metabolism and use of carbohydrates, fatty acids and amino acids among other substances.
Folates are involved in the production of red and white blood cells, in the synthesis of genetic material and the formation of antibodies of the immune system.
Regarding its mineral composition, the most abundant is potassium, followed by calcium, phosphorus and iodine. The calcium in these roots is hardly assimilated in relation to dairy products and other foods rich in this mineral.
Potassium is a mineral necessary for the transmission and generation of the nerve impulse and for normal muscular activity, in addition to regulating the water balance inside and outside the cell.
Phosphorus plays an important role in the formation of bones and teeth, like calcium, and participates in the body’s energy production processes.
Iodine is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism.
It is important to note that turnip greens are more nutritious than the turnip itself. Turnip greens provide almost twice as much protein and fiber as the root and a lot of calcium. The most remarkable thing about turnip greens is its vitamin and mineral composition. Contains several times greater amounts than turnip of provitamin A or beta-carotene, vitamin C and folates.
Beta-carotene is transformed into vitamin A in our body as it needs it and has an antioxidant action. Vitamin A is essential for vision, the good condition of the skin, hair, mucous membranes, bones and for the proper functioning of the immune system.
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