Bob Mitchell: Turnips: liked, or detested?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

There is nothing in between when it comes to being favorable toward eating or not having anything to do with eating turnips, which is one of the vegetables normally readily available this time of the year. The turnip has become a crop available both to humans and cattle, the latter being the one that is quite choosy about consuming the veggie.

People are likely to be quite selective about the way they might consume turnips. There are those that choose to simply wash a turnip that might be freshly pulled from the ground, then peel their selection to a thickness they can bite and chew. That’s eating them raw, a situation some can’t even think about for themselves.

Then there are those that follow the first three steps, pick, peel and slice, and then proceed to cook with their favorite seasoning. The raw eating types won’t approach this method. Some say turnips and fish frying are two odors they don’t want to leave in their kitchen.

Size makes difference

There is one important factor in turnip eating that needs to be followed. That’s choosing the size of the veggie that is to be consumed. A medium size, say about the diameter of a tennis ball is most generally a desirable pick. Anything much above that stands the chance of being “pithie” and have a strong taste.

Even the most devoted turnip fan has been known to shy away from the larger sizes for the very reasons above.

2017 crop

This year’s crop seems to favor some gardeners while others have experienced absolute failures. In some instances, those most favoring the vegetable most on their eating list, are among those on the failure list. To their rescue comes the gardener that has experienced a bumper crop and passes them along to friends with, “Come and help yourself out of my patch.”

And, that is exactly what is happening during the 2017 season for growing and consuming turnips.

Hunts and hikes

In years past, when there was quail hunting to be enjoyed in this region, there were selections of trips made knowing the location of a desirable turnip patch. Actually, that wasn’t much of a problem, since there were locations where these morsels were readily available. Just to swing by one of these gardens while the dogs were making a swing along a hillside provided a refreshing respite after walking a considerable distance.

The same treat might be available while taking a hike or just driving in some area of the county.

A long time ago, when using the Seventh Street hill to access school, the Manley family always had a bountiful garden where the First United Methodist Church parking lot is now located. After their family had used the produce to their fill, Mrs. Manley frequently would set outside near her garden and offer the youngsters passing the opportunity to select their choice of turnips out of their patch.

By the time this offer was made, many had reached the stage of not being choice for consuming. That entitled the youngster a second choice the following day, going up or down the hill. Some teachers didn’t really approve bringing turnips into a classroom.

Gained popularity

Turnips, along with any other vegetables coming out of a garden, proved even more popular during a couple of periods in history.

First was in the late 1920s and the early 1940s, respectively during the time of the Great Depression and World War II. During the first period, turnips were among those things titled Depression Busters, since they were an abundant source of food.

The same feature held true during the Great War, when many food sources were going into cans providing for the military services fighting our aggressors.

In later years, when consuming rations while on the beach in Korea, the existence of canned turnips were never found even in 5-1 boxes.

Big patches for cattle

Closing days of quail hunting in Kansas provided the surprise of the time when we ran onto a 40-acre field that had obviously been planted entirely with turnips. This was the first experience of the tops being utilized as cattle feed.

This particular cattleman, had 20 or 30 of what appeared to be top quality Black Angus obviously enjoying themselves on the crop. Observing their grazing, it was obvious some of them had mastered the art of pawing the rather large turnips out of the ground and had been at least nibling on the veggie.

The owner, apparently noticing we were observing the process, met us on the road, where we learned some of the animals did actually consume turnips at some time or another.

His offer that we might help ourselves to some of the turnips wasn’t accepted since all we could find were of the larger type, possibly not fit for a table. This type of turnip was possibly not developed for humans.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.