Turnips and rutabagas are from the Brassica family, which includes cabbage, mustard greens, and cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. Both are root vegetables, have purple tinted tops*, are cylindrical in shape, sprout tall, sturdy, edible leafy greens, and are rich in Vitamin C, complex carbohydrates, and soluble fiber.
Although similar looking, turnips are slightly smaller on average, can be entirely purple on the outside depending on the variety, and have a white interior, while rutabagas are larger and mostly cream colored with yellow tinged flesh. Rutabaga leaves are smooth and cabbage like, whereas turnip greens are bumpy textured and somewhat waxy. For the best taste, pick or choose both when leaves are tender and the roots are small and young, no larger than 4” in diameter for rutabagas and especially no more than 3” for turnips since they will get awfully rooty with size.
What constitutes the “best taste” for either veggie is a matter of opinion. Regardless, why anyone would want to eat a turnip is beyond me! We grow them, lots of the coveted gourmet kind, and I will gladly sell the whole crop to chefs. Heck, I’d give turnips away just to keep distance between them and my taste buds. Like brussel sprouts, no matter how much sauce and goop is slathered on them, whether charbroiled to a crisp or sautéed with cipollini onions and truffles, I detect and detest that bitter flavor the best of the best of cooks try to hide.
But rutabagas, that’s a different story. A rutabaga is thought to be a hybrid between a cabbage and a turnip. It favors the mild flavor of a cabbage and is much sweeter, and in my opinion, much more tolerable than a turnip. In fact, I find the earthy, sweet, barely bitter blend rather enjoyable, especially in faux mashed potato dishes and dessert pies. And just like those pungent turnip greens, zesty rutabaga greens can be prepared in any spinach-like fashion or give an added raw “bite” to salads. Why do I prefer rutabagas to turnips when they’re both so similar? The answer is in my stubborn, indindividualistic taste buds. What’s your opinion on the matter!
*The Golden Globe turnip (pictured above) is one of our varieties and similar looking to our rutabagas.
Dedicated to K.M.G., unbeknownst to me until recently, a lover of turnips and brussel sprouts. Egads!