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Turnip greens

The symbol of Apulian cuisine

Turnip greens are a cultivar that has long been associated with Apulian cuisine, mostly as a “symbol” (though they are grown and eaten widely throughout Italy). From a botanical perspective, they are only the leaves of the “Brassica vulgaris” plant, which is related to broccoli and cabbage. In addition to needing well-irrigated soil free of water stagnation and with excellent resistance to low temperatures, the plant is harvested in the autumn.

Turnip greens are nutrient-dense in addition to being delicious. Their substantial quantities of mineral salts, namely iron, and their high fibre content (3%) are two of the many factors that indicate their nutritional worth. They have a significant amount of vitamin C in them as well. With just over 30 kcal per 100 grammes, the intake of calories is minimal.

The varieties of turnip greens

Turnip greens are an overall homogeneous cultivar. However, there are varieties that are characterised by their harvesting period. Here is a comprehensive overview.

  • Quarantines: They are harvested 40 days after sowing, generally around September. They have a stronger flavour and a fuller structure.
  • Sixty: They are harvested two months after sowing, towards the end of September and the beginning of October. For crunchiness and delicacy, they are characterised by a medium profile.
  • A hundred and twenty: Also harvested late, they are characterised by a delicate flavour and a marked softness. The colour is usually light.
  • Marzatiche: Extremely late, they are harvested towards the end of autumn, even four months after sowing. They are very delicate and tender.

Some ideas in the kitchen

Turnip greens are at their best with the first courses. The reference is to the famous orecchiette with turnip greens, a typical dish of Puglia. However, they also go very well with other dishes, especially risottos. This does not imply, however, that they cannot be served alongside or paired with meat meals.

Some recipes include the use of this vegetable as a filling for pastries and savoury pies. Of course, they taste great “raw” in a salad. In this instance, the latter kinds are often more soft, less crunchy, and have a more delicate flavour; therefore, I suggest going with them. Turnip greens are, in a nutshell, incredibly tasty, nutritious, and flexible. My own pick of recipes using this priceless vegetable is listed below. You have an abundance of options!

How to cook turnip greens, my favourite recipes

As I have already mentioned, this delicious vegetable is involved both in first courses and in side dishes. So it’s worth listing some of my favourite recipes among those prepared on Nonnapaperina. Recipes that prove that cooking turnip greens is easy and fun.

Rigatoni with turnip greens and aubergines: It is a first course with a creamy consistency and a rustic flavour. A unique sauce made from pureed aubergines and turnip greens is used to sauté the rigatoni. More pan-fried aubergines and a crunchy waterfall of toasted pine nuts adorn everything.

Pizza with turnip greens and sausage: A white pizza that relies on the toppings, made up of sausage and turnip greens, a combination that recalls the more famous “sausage and broccoli.” It is a light pizza, also because the turnip greens are not sautéed with oil but simply boiled.

Risotto with turnip greens: It is a very simple risotto to make that stands out for its taste and elegance. This last aspect is determined above all by the colors it manages to express: the light green of the turnip greens (blended together with the anchovies) and the pink of the tuna used as a garnish. The oil from the pan in which the onions were fried is used for the creaming, along with the pecorino cheese.

Tagliatelle with turnip greens’ pesto: It is a first course that is based above all on pesto. The process for preparing pesto does not differ from the classic one, and neither do the ingredients. However, instead of basil, we find turnip greens, which are not cooked in a pan but only blanched.

The impact of turnip greens on the body

I touched on turnip greens’ nutritious qualities, but it’s helpful to go into further detail regarding their advantages. However, this vegetable has nothing to be jealous of when it comes to the most well-known veggies, which are universally believed to be healthier.

Turnip greens are good for the liver and kidneys; in fact, they contain detoxifying substances and are rich in water; therefore, they support the functionality of these organs.

Turnip greens also help with digestion, as, like all vegetables of this type, they are rich in fibre.

The abundance of vitamin A, then, has a positive impact on the health of the eyes and skin. Finally, the presence of antioxidants (such as beta-carotene) plays a fundamental role in the prevention of cancer.

But because turnip greens contain a significant diversity of mineral salts and chlorophyll, they also fight fatigue and asthenia, which affect energy levels. Additionally, there is a fair amount of phosphorus and calcium, which are good for the brain and bones.

Do turnip greens have any contraindications?

Can turnip greens be bad for you? It seems strange to ask this question, at least in relation to a vegetable that provides so many benefits. In reality, this vegetable has some contraindications. One contraindication in particular concerns a particular category of people, namely those suffering from gout or hyperuricemia. These people should pay maximum attention to the consumption of turnip greens, as they are rich in purines, molecules that are sometimes difficult to metabolise.

Additional adverse effects are related to overindulgence and are present in the majority of vegetables high in fibre. Because of its high fibre content, consuming this vegetable in excess may cause gastrointestinal irritation or have a mild laxative effect.

Additionally, there is an allergy to Brassicaceae, which is the family that comprises broccoli and turnip greens. Similar to other food allergies, this allergy causes the following symptoms: rhinitis, conjunctivitis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and swelling of the oral cavity. Anaphylactic shock is also an extremely rare occurrence.