Friday, August 15, 2008

Wild turnip greens for dinner

Yesterday we picked some big bunches of Wild Turnip from our backyard to put in a noodle stir-fry - along with ginger, soy sauce, onionweed, egg, cashew nuts, and mushrooms (ordinary brown buttons from a shop, I hasten to add.)

I felt there was some urgency to picking the Wild Turnip, as my father-in-law had announced he was going to come and mow our lawns for us, and I would have felt a little strange - not mention ungrateful - about giving him a list of weeds to work around!

Wild Turnip is a variety of Brassica rapa - the same species that has been bred and cultivated for its roots to produce turnips, and for its leaves to produce bok choy.

The leaves, buds, flowers, and seeds of wild turnip are all highly edible.

Looking at its buds, you can see the family resemblance to fellow Brassica, broccoli.

Wild turnip produces a crazy hotchpotch of different shaped leaves. It starts as a rosette of 'lyre-shaped' leaves with funny little pox all over them ...

... then it sends up a stalk.

The further up the stalk you go, the more the leaves lose their lyre shape and their pox (I'm sure there's a technical name for those, but I'm enjoying calling them pox.) I've read that the lower leaves, and especially the first leaves of the rosette, are the best tasting and least bitter. We're still experimenting with that ...

From the batch of wild turnip we collected last night, we also managed to harvest a few seed pods. Mustard can be made from the seeds of several different Brassica species and varieties, so we're going to dry these seed pods and have a go at it.

Wild Turnip roots smell delicious (very turnipy), but I haven't read anywhere that you can eat them. One source says they're too stringy. But if this is the only reason not to eat them - perhaps you could still boil them up as part of a vegetable stock? I'd love to know if there's any reason not to eat them apart from their stringiness.


Lynda Eichler said...

Oh Johanna - your stir-fry sounds fantastic !! I would love to be able to identify this wild turnip. Your photos are great, but it's much easier for somebody to point it out - hint, hint.

Meiche Tea said...

I'm going to purchase a book called "the Weed Forager's Handbook, which has a stack of info about the nutrition and edibilty of a variety of common weeds. I'm really interested about this green too, as it grows extensively in my area. I heard it *may* contain an acid that requires a blanch? But I'm not 100% sure on that.