What is a turnip and what health benefits does it offer? How to grow it and what to cook with it?

Turnips are an easy-to-digest, yet vitamin-packed miracle.

Scientists even believe that it could play an important role in the fight against cancer.

How to include turnips in your diet?

Why has the population forgotten him?

Turnips are a miracle superfood

It provides the body with a wide range of substances that significantly affect human health. It is a source of well-known vitamins A, C, E, K, but also less well-known substances such as lutein, zeaxanthin and niacin. It also has a large supply of minerals and trace elements, especially calcium, magnesium and zinc.

It should also be mentioned that turnips contain very important antioxidants called glucosinolates. Thanks to these substances, turnips have their typical spicy and pungent taste, but above all – medicinal effects.

According to numerous studies, these substances directly affect the reduction of the risk of cancer formation 3 . The scientific society assumes that in the future, foods such as turnips could be part of treatments in the fight against lung, colon and rectal cancer 4 .

Turnips are a low-calorie crop that can significantly help with weight management. It is therefore an even more suitable dietary supplement than, for example, potatoes. In addition, it also has a low glycemic index, so it does not affect blood sugar levels and is therefore suitable for diabetics.

Turnip leaves

In terms of vitamins, turnip leaves are even more beneficial than the crop itself. It is the leaves that contain the substances lutein and zeaxanthin. The body cannot produce these carotenoids on its own, so it is necessary to receive them in sufficient quantities in the diet. They protect the retina from the blue part of the visible light spectrum. A sufficient daily dose of lutein and zeaxanthin also reduces the likelihood of developing cataracts.

What is the visible blue part of the electromagnetic spectrum of light?
The human eye is sensitive to part of the electromagnetic spectrum of light, the so-called blue light. This light is everywhere, it makes the sky blue. The human body uses it to “set the clock” for waking and sleeping.

However, artificial light sources (television, mobile phones, computers) overwhelm the defenses of the retina of the eye, which cannot defend itself against the excess of this light. Prolonged exposure to artificial blue light can easily cause serious damage to the retina. Without the support of vitamins and antioxidants, the risk of complete vision loss increases with age.

Turnip root
100 g 1
Turnip leaves
100 g 2
Energy value 28 kcal 32 kcal
Proteins 0.9 g 1.5 g
Fats 0.1 g 0.3 g
Carbohydrates 6.43 g 7.13 g
Fiber 1.8 g 3.2 g
Sugars 3.8 g 0.81 g
Calcium 30 mg 190 mg
Magnesium 11 mg 31 mg
Potassium 191 mg 296 mg
Sodium 67 mg 40 mg
Zinc 0.27 mg 0.19 mg
Manganese 0.13 mg 0.47 mg
Vitamin C 21 mg 60 mg
Niacin 0.4 mg 0.6 mg
Folate 15 µg 194 µg
Vitamin A 0 µg 579 µg
Lutein + zeaxanthin 0 µg 12,800 µg
Vitamin E 0.03 mg 2.86 mg
Vitamin K 0.1 µg 251 µg

Turnip or turnip?

Turnips and turnips are two crops that are similar in appearance, so they are often confused. However, they are different. Before the discovery of America and the arrival of the potato, it was turnip that provided European cultures with dishes in the form of side dishes. However, the turnip is a cross between the turnip and the head cabbage, and its tubers are noticeably larger than the turnip tubers.

What is a tuber?
An edible bulbous tuber that serves as a nutrient storage organ for the entire plant, including the roots. The tuber is also often called a storage root.

Turnip (turnip rapeseed turnip)
Brassica rapa rapa
Turnip (turnip turnip rape)
Brassica napus napobrassica
bulb color white, with a red or purple bulb head white, with a purple or green bulb head
bulb diameter 5–15 cm 10-20 cm
the way the tuber grows grows mostly underground grows mostly above the ground
leaf color green bluish

Turnips and turnips
source: sloely.com, dtbrownseeds.co.uk

In European countries, both crops are grown mainly as food for human consumption, while in American countries, on the contrary, exclusively as fodder for farm animals.

Tubers for human consumption are harvested young and therefore small, the feed size is larger – up to 2 kg in the case of turnips, up to 5 kg in the case of turnips.

Types of turnips

The exact number of species is unknown. It is estimated that there are more than 30 different varieties in the world, which could be species, subspecies or even hybrids of turnips. Below you will find the turnips that are most often available in the regular market.

White turnip

The most commonly grown variety in Czech gardens and fields. The classic white-purple turnip, as we know it from stores. It has a spicy radish taste and tastes best raw, for example in spreads or salads.


This type of turnip is easily recognizable at first glance – it has a yellow color, both on the surface and inside. Although there is no denying the pungent taste typical of turnips, they are among the tastiest types – cooked they taste sweet and buttery, similar to sweet potatoes.

Scarlet Queen

A small red turnip similar to radishes. It is less woody and more juicy. Due to its distinctive color, sweeter taste and crunchiness, it is used as an ingredient in fresh salads, most often in combination with honey dressing.

White turnip Rutabaga Scarlet Queen
source: freshop.com, farmersalmanac.com, foodhubri.com

Baby bunch

Baby turnips are a small variety that will never reach the size of a large turnip. It has a creamy white color, a sour taste and does not need to be peeled. It becomes a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen. It is tasty pickled in vinegar, in the form of turnip puree or grilled and stewed with butter.

Hida Beni turnip

It is the iconic vegetable of Japan. More than 80 different varieties of this turnip are grown right there. They differ in color, taste and shape. The most famous Hida Beni turnip is deep pink to red, with a spherical root and white flesh with red irregular markings. It is often pickled, which is colored by its red pigment and serves as a broth substitute for sauces and soups.

Baby Bunch and Hida Beni turnips
source: specialtyproduce.com, mediterraneanfoods.com

Hinona Kabu

Another Japanese variant of turnip, unique especially for its shape. As one of the few, it does not have spherical roots, but cylindrical, slender and up to 30 cm long. It is mainly used as a spice for soups – the chopped root is dried and crushed or ground.


Turnips are guaranteed to have the most interesting taste. Tastes like watermelon raw. Heat treatment gives it a spicier taste, but it remains rather sweet. It is a suitable variety for children’s snacks, especially in its sweet raw form.

Hinona Kabu and Oasis turnips
source: specialtyproduce.com, media.istockphoto.com

How to cook turnips?

  • Turnip leaves taste like arugula. Their delicate spicy taste naturally underlines sharper dishes in particular. Young leaves are mainly used, which are not so bitter and do not overpower all the other flavors in the dish. You can try them in poke bowls, vegetable salads or dressings (instead of herbs). It is eaten both raw and cooked.

  • The turnip root (or tuber) is truly a universal food. You can use it to make, for example, a creamy, slightly pungent turnip soup , which will warm you up on colder evenings.

  • It is also used as a side dish – for example instead of potatoes. Roasted turnips with fresh herbs are excellent, especially with meat.

  • It is also ideal for grilling. Just peel the turnip, cut it into slices, salt it and put it on the grill. Together with the garlic dressing, you can conjure up healthy canapés to go with wine and beer. You can also prepare turnip chips in the oven in a very similar way.

  • Garlic, ginger, thyme, rosemary, licorice, cumin, honey, apples, pears and parmesan; ingredients that go well with turnips.

A forgotten crop

According to historical records, it already occurred in ancient Greece. Here it was used not only for food, but also as a means of expressing disapproval – it was thrown at speakers during public speeches.

Did you know that turnips are the original crop for carving Halloween lanterns?

How To Carve A Halloween Turnip

Turnips are hardy and thrive in cold conditions. That is why in the past it was a part of the diet of mainly the working class, as a readily available food.

It has also become a literally revolutionary fodder for farm animals. History has shown that farmers killed their livestock before winter; they didn’t have the finances or space to store hay in the wet winter months. After discovering that turnips thrive in winter (unlike other crops), they were able to drop this bloody tradition.

The turnip plant has been an integral part of the human diet for centuries. Over time, however, it was completely replaced by potatoes, primarily because of its neutral taste. In terms of medicinal effects, however, turnips (even if a bit pungent and bitter) remain absolutely unsurpassed.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)