Pearly white and golf-ball sized, topped with pretty green leaves, Hakurei turnips taste like a cross between a radish and a carrot with a peppery punch.
Crispy and crunchy, they're great shredded into a slaw or chopped for a salad, which explains the name, "salad turnip." They're guaranteed to win over even the harshest critic of turnips.
Turnips were once considered a "vegetable of nobility" in 16th century Europe, and were served at weddings and holidays. Hakurei are a newer variety, first cultivated in Japan in the 1950s. They grow quickly and their leafy greens are relatively mild, delicious stir-fried or sautéed.
Members of the cabbage family, turnips are the scapegoat of vegetable horror stories. But when fresh, these tiny turnips are magical. Find them at the farmers market and our local food co-ops.
Look for bright, lively leaves and smallish white bulbs. They should be firm and smooth, without nicks or cuts. Once the skin is split, a turnip will become dry and limp. Store turnips in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper for three to five days. These smaller, more delicate turnips do not last as long as the larger varieties
There is no need to peel the Hakurei, simply trim the ends and wash them well under cold, running water. Much like radishes, these are fabulous when sliced thinly and served on thickly buttered rye bread and sprinkled with coarse salt.
More options for these terrific turnips:
Turnip slaw: Add shredded turnips to your favorite coleslaw recipe (or add to commercially prepared coleslaw to perk it up with freshness and crunch).
Turnip crostini: Spread crostini with chèvre and top with thinly sliced Hakurei turnips.
Roast turnips and beets: Toss baby beets and Hakurei turnips with enough oil to coat, sprinkle with coarse salt and spread out on a roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 400-degree oven until fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
Turnip, radish and cucumber salad: Toss together sliced turnips, radishes and cucumbers with just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Season with lemon juice and coarse black pepper to taste and top with crumbled feta.
Glazed turnips: In a medium skillet set over moderate heat, melt enough butter to coat the pan and toss in sliced turnips. Sauté until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drizzle with a teaspoon of honey, toss to coat and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Beth Dooley is the author of "In Winter's Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.