What's a Turnip?

I am embarrassed to say that this nutritionist has NO CLUE what the difference is between a turnip and a beet. We got both (I think) in our CSA last week, and as I was juicing them Ed asked, “Is that a beet?” to which I replied “I have no idea.” I know what a beet is, and how to identify one, because we eat them a lot at our house. I always thought turnips were similar, but I’ve never cooked with them before so I didn’t really know.

My mom grew and cooked tons of different veggies when we were growing up, so I always felt like I had a good knowledge base of different foods. But for some reason I never picked up on turnips, and in my head they are similar to beets but in reality I don’t know! So, I thought I’d devote this Friday to solving this mystery (well, it’s a mystery to me, anyway, probably not to the rest of you!).

According to Wikipedia (my trusty source), a turnip is a root vegetable that is known for its whitish bulb or root. Most are white with a little red, purple or green on the top of the root, and the interior flesh is entirely white. Baby turnips come in red, yellow and orange and can be eaten raw, like a radish. It also says that turnips are often grown as feed for livestock. Hmmm.

Turnip greens are commonly eaten because they are so nutrient-dense. Just 1 cup contains 650% of your daily vitamin K; 150% of vitamin A; and loads of vitamin C, folate, fiber and calcium. The actual root part of the veggie is full of vitamin C, folate, fiber, calcium, vitamin B6 and copper, and is part of the cruciferous family of vegetables (along with cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and more). So, it has the same cancer-fighting and other health benefits as these other veggies. Learning all of this makes me want to eat more turnips!

So this mystery vegetable I was juicing was completely red on the outside, but mostly white with some red stripes on the inside. I’m guessing it was more turnip than beet, because beets are so vibrant on the inside. But it didn’t look 100% turnip to me… maybe we’ll call it a turbeet.

Well, at least now I know the difference! I am a little embarrassed about my lack of knowledge but I figure I’m allowed some of that since I’m still a student…

Have a great weekend, everyone!


  1. I have to admit I have no idea what a turnip is either! I even thought you were talking about radishes until you mentioned that they looked like a radish and then I was confused all over again. I am still lost and determined now to find a turnip recipe and try them out. I'll report back when I've solved this mystery! :)

  2. hello! The mystery vegetable you were referring to is actually an Italian heirloom variety of beet called "chioggia." It contains the characteristic white and red stripes you mentioned, which typically fade once it is cooked.

    I love both beets and turnips very much, and I recommend trying a variety of turnip called "hakurei" if you can get your hands on some. They are pretty common at the CSAs here in Maine, and they are pure white, crisp, slightly spicy, and fantastic stir-fried.

  3. I've recently been converted to a turnip lover after I bought a gorgeous fuschia-colored bunch at the farmer's market - they did look a lot like beets! They don't taste like beets, though, much more subtle.

    Just found your site - lovely. Ellie from Rainy Day designed one of my blogs, too. Love her!