I love summer.
All winter, I scowl at the paltry selection of flaccid grocery store root vegetables, exhausted by their long journeys from China or Mexico and collapsed on the shelf in a jumbled heap. In summer, when fresh veggies are in season and our garden is at its best, I bask in the pleasure of having local dinners.
Maybe there’s something better than pulling root veggies from the earth and eating them from top to tip, half an hour later, but I’m not sure what.
I’ve always loved beets, both for their sweet bottoms (tee hee) and their tender, flavourful leaves, but this year is my first loving turnips. Turnip leaves are slightly hairy when raw, but the fuzz disappears upon cooking, and, it turns out, the roots can be as tasty as their bright pink cousins.
This weekend, turnips became my unlikely dinnertime superstar.
Hyped by the euphoria of hauling up the beets and turnips, I thought I’d pull some potatoes and make it a fully homegrown meal. First harvest of favourites: banana fingerlings. I could almost taste the firm, waxy roots, boiled, then pan-fried with garlic, salt, and fresh herbs. I grasped the most promising looking potato plant by its base. I gave a good pull. It came up. And there I found…
I dug through the surrounding soil, certain I was missing the expected bounty: a haul of four-inch-long tubers, buried like edible treasure.
Nope. Just my little quadruplets, Minnie, Baby, Tinky, and Marble.
Inside, the turnips bristled with anticipation. They’d never anticipated sitting in the position of glory upon the plate. Star savoury vegetable. Egged on by the beets, they prepared themselves to shine.
I scrubbed the turnips, and sliced them open. One was found to be a home for some sort of grub. I recoiled briefly, then shook it off. If you’re going to be a gardening vegan, you quickly have to shrug off squeamishness and excess moral superiority. I work to read labels and avoid animal products when I can, but my last traces of smugness over not having eaten animal products since that time someone forgot about the ground meat in the Tex-Mex dip disappeared that time when, halfway through dinner, it became evident that my garden-fresh broccoli had been sauteed with free range, organic caterpillars.
Back to turnipfest. Grubs obliterated (best as I could tell), I scrubbed and diced the root veggies with fresh walla walla onion, tossed in a few garlic cloves, and sliced in red peppers, then lightly oiled the lot and roasted for 20-30 minutes on 450 F. I had a few oversized garlic scapes on hand, so added those in for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Imagine my surprise. The finished product was not only passable, it was pleasurable. The beets, as I’d expected, caramelized beautifully, crisping on the outside and becoming tender inside, generously sharing their rosy hue with everything else in the pan. The real surprise came from the fresh turnips. Unlike storebought turnips, that I enjoy well enough, but find slightly bitter and potentially watery, our garden friends proved firm and sweet, a perfect addition to a roasted summer veggie plate.