How To Cook Baby Turnips, A Historical Fact, A Random Thought, And Three Ideas

“It augmentith the seed of man and provoketh carnel lust”

Sir Thomas Elliot on turnips, 1539

Normal turnips, in my view, really are for livestock – but baby turnips are something else – a sort of friendly radish!

The aphrodisiac properties mentioned by Thomas Elliot in the quote above, however, have yet to be proven…

They’re only in season in June and July so enjoy them while you can.

How to cook baby turnips – boiling

Serves 2


  • 6-8 baby turnips
  • a knob of butter
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard (the mustard just reinforces the zinginess of the turnips)
  • ½ tsp smoked salt and about four grinds of white pepper


  1. get a saucepan of water boiling – just enough to cover the turnips
  2. trim off the green neatly, about an inch above the top, chop off the root and clean. If you are being extra professional turn with a turning knife
  3. drop the turnips into the boiling water for about seven minutes.
  4. refresh under cold water and cut in half vertically, and return to the saucepan.
  5. Just before serving reheat, toss with the butter, honey, mustard, salt and pepper for a couple of minutes to glaze.

How to cook baby turnips – roasting

  1. There is another, equally delicious method for cooking baby turnips, and that is to roast them. 
  2. Preheat your oven to 210°C.
  3. Prepare the turnips as described above, trimming and turning, and cutting lengthwise in halves (for very small turnips) or quarters. 
  4. Put into an ovenproof dish together with the butter, mustard, honey and salt and pepper. Put into the oven. Baste after five minutes. They’ll take about twenty minutes altogether to roast.

How to cook baby turnips – frying

  1. Cut off and reserve the leaves of the turnips. You’ll need about 500g/1 lb for four people.
  2. Wash the turnips and slice very thinly.
  3. Warm a clove of garlic crushed with some textured salt in a wok, or high-sided frying pan with some olive oil.
  4. Add the sliced turnip, you might need to add a bit more oil, and fry, stirring, for four or five minutes, to soften.
  5. Add the zest of an orange. Add the juice of the orange… reduce a little.
  6. Shred the reserved leaves, add to the pan. Cover the pan and steam to wilt the leaves, for a couple of minutes.
  7. Serve.
A turning or paring knife
These small vegetables are more easily peeled using a turning knife.

What can you do with baby turnips?

IDEA 1: make a starter salad with turnips cooked as above, rocket or shredded blanched and refreshed savoy cabbage, and a beetroot crisp garnish.

IDEA 2: add to pasta or rice (Nigel Slater suggests orzo pasta which I think would be rather nice) together with fried mushrooms, banana shallots, shredded rocket and an extra glurp of olive oil.

IDEA 3: fry bacon, garlic, banana shallot, boil some new potatoes, cut the potatoes to be about the same size as the turnips (cooked as above). Mix with mayonnaise and dill.

History of cooking turnips

People have been cooking turnips for a long time…. first recorded in fact in Mesopotamia in 1600 BC when they were gorily cooked in blood (animal blood one hopes…).

how to roast turnips
The symbol for beer is an upright pointed jug… and for eating a human head with a triangular object… but where does it say about the turnips?

Random thought on turnips

A random, and rather nice, thought about turnips… from one of Thomas J Fudge’s excellent and unusual baked products – see the image of their packaging below.

turnip recipes
What raindrops are to turnips? Why not parsnips… or swedes?

And two more charming quotes about turnips:

“on rainy days he sat and talked for hours together with his mother about turnips”

Mark Twain, Roughing It

“Now, the navet de Suède is, in contrast, a robust turnip that grew wild up in the Baltic region, before Celts brought the nutritious root south and it began proper cultivation in France. This was thousands of years ago, of course, but it is my opinion the Swedish turnip today surpasses all other turnips because of its sweetness, a characteristic bred into the vegetable over time”

Richard C Morais, The Hundred Foot Journey

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Adrian Hutchinson

Tried your first version but microwaved them before frying in the butter, mustard and honey. Very nice thanks.

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