This past Thursday, I was driving around on an errand run and spotted the local version of a farmers’ market in session – thanks to a ridiculous Pretzel van (don’t ask). I was surprised they were already out!
On my way back, I stopped to see what they had. For whatever reason, they were closing early. One chap had a box of movies (!!) for those who were self-quarantining. A lady had local honey, someone else had already folded up their tent of seafood, another was wrapping up their tent – they may have had eggs.
One chap had a few things still on display – Bibb lettuce, cut butternut squash, freeze dried apples – and one last bunch of white turnips that was wilting in the sun. He would have to either toss it, or throw it in his own stew. I wasn't sure we'd eat anything from his selection, so we walked away.
As I got into the car, I lamented aloud that of all the perishable vegetables, the white turnips would not survive the night and would likely be tossed. They didn't look the picture here - all fresh and perky.
My kid joked that I had a soft spot for farmers markets (which is sadly true - haven't met a farmers' stand I didn't want to buy from). I reminded her, that back in the day, I used to sell vegetables from our farm. Instinctively, I stopped, hazard-parked the car on my way out of the parking lot, went back and purchased the turnips, some lettuce and a bag of freeze-dried apples, just to round out the purchase on the credit card. The guy was bewildered that I did not want the ‘better looking stuff’ - maybe some carrots or butternut squash?
I told him, when I was a kid, during the summers, I would sit with the farm hands to sell farm vegetables either outside the farm gates, or at the market in India. Mangoes, ivy gourd, bottle gourds, watermelons, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, onions, ridge gourds, and an assortment of wild/foraged fruits that grew on the property. But, once harvested, we could do little with them, and if we didn’t sell the more perishable ones like tomatoes or the foraged fruits, they would be wasted.
He smiled and nodded, and said, “So you know.” Yes, I do.
He finally sold me three turnips, smaller than the ones above, for a dollar. After taxes, transportation and labor, I think he probably earned about 0.60 cents if that for the turnips. Not even enough for a decent cup of coffee.
There are few dozen things to cook with turnip tops, and a few dozen things to make with turnip (roots) but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them, since it wasn't in the original dinner plan.
Nevertheless, I brought them home, trimmed the tops into half inch pieces, tossed them with a tablespoon of chopped red onions in a tablespoon of sesame oil with a quarter teaspoon of ginger garlic paste, and added a dash of Tamari. I let it wilt down for about 10 minutes on low, covered. It made a wonderful side dish to out broiled salmon and sweet potato dinner. It was lightly peppery, but not overpowering. No spice/heat except the light balance of the ginger and garlic paste.
There was no planned recipe for this accidental find, and it took only six ingredients to make the dish. It was a bowl of wilted greens that didn't look pretty for the camera (and we were too hungry), but they were tastier than a Michelin spread.
In these times, when grocery stores and farmers are scrambling to stay ahead of the demands, to keep their shelves stocked, or are hurting because people are only purchasing staples, here is an idea.
The next time you go to the grocery store, or pass a farmers' market - and if you DON'T find what you are looking for - pick up something that IS there, that has a slightly shorter shelf life than what you may want. A bunch of sun-wilted turnips, a can of asparagus spears, artichokes, red kidney beans, or even a strange vegetable that you have no clue about. You may not have a clue about it – but if someone spent the effort to make it available, more than one person knows what to do with it.
Bring it back, post a picture and tag me on social media @currycravings. I bet we can find you a recipe to make it delicious.
Meanwhile, to see what we cook often in our kitchen, check out this small section of recipes on my site: https://www.currycravingskitchen.com/recipes