Rediscovering Turnip Greens, the South’s Humblest Vegetable
Move over, collards—there’s a new leafy green in town.
When you think of Southern food, you probably picture paper plates heaped with barbecue staples—crispy fried chicken, gooey mac and cheese, and fall-off-the-bone ribs, glistening with a rich glaze of BBQ sauce. And while barbecue is undeniably a trademark of Southern cooking, you’ll scant find a Southern cookout that doesn’t feature a big pot of greens. Southerners know that the secret to good cooking is all about balance; we’ll polish off that pulled pork sandwich, and we’ll match it with a generous scoop of stewed collards.
If barbecue is the main event, greens are the understated supporting act to any Southern meal—they play a role just as crucial as a glass of sweet tea on a hot August afternoon. We all know about Southern collards, but the time has come to talk about the South’s best-kept secret: Turnip greens.
Turnip Greens Flavor
The turnip is one of our favorite fall root vegetables for its mild, earthy flavor. Like their root vegetable cousins, the beet and the potato, turnips taste great when they’re oven-roasted, gaining a nice, caramelized crust and a fluffy, tender interior. They small bulbs are slightly sweet and peppery, combining the sweet vegetal flavor of a carrot with the comforting, starchy texture of a baby potato. But the bulbs are only the beginning. Turnip greens, AKA the plant’s leafy stems, also hold a world of culinary possibilities.
Turnip greens likely graced your childhood table in the form of a deeply stewed, pulpy glob of boiled greens, seasoned with salt and pepper and perhaps studded with ham hocks. While a simple sauté is a classic treatment of the greens—just the look of it triggers all the nostalgia—it’s time to pay turnip greens the respect that they’re due. To restrict our preparation of turnip greens to “muddled to a near paste” would be to do the humble vegetable a serious disservice. And we’ve got the recipes to prove it.
Go-To Turnip Green Recipes
- Warm Turnip Green Dip
- Skillet Chicken Breast with Beans and Greens
- Turnip Green Salad
- Roasted Baby Turnips with Turnip Green Pesto
Today, you’ll find turnip greens reimagined in a plethora of Southern-favorite recipes. Hosting a gameday cookout? Retire the tired spinach-and-artichoke spread and introduce your guests to our office-favorite Warm Turnip Green Dip. Want to whip up a quick, healthy, and balanced weeknight dinner? Skillet Chicken Breast with Beans and Greens will be your new go-to.
WATCH: Cheesy Collard Dip
While you may best recognize turnip greens when they’re boiled to a pulp, their mild flavor and thick, leafy texture actually makes them a great choice for fresh summer and fall salads. Trade out the trendy kale and go back to basics with our Turnip Green Salad; the main-worthy greens dish is adorned with purple cauliflower, watermelon radishes, and heirloom grape tomatoes for peak color.
Shine a spotlight on the humble turnip in a side dish that’s all about the vegetable: Roasted Baby Turnips with Turnip Green Pesto. If you ever needed a reason not to toss those stems, meet Turnip Green Pesto. A simple pesto is so easy to make, and this version substitutes basil for Southern-favorite turnip greens. After a quick boil, just toss the greens into the food processor with garlic and pecans to form a bright, herbaceous sauce. This dish takes all the different parts of the turnip—from the stems to the bulbs—and marries the components together in a farm-fresh side.
There are endless possibilities when it comes to these humble greens. Whether you’re using them in a hearty soup, a farm-fresh side, or a simple sauté, they’re sure to bring a bit of Southern soul to your fall table.