The ins and outs of turnip greens

Turnip greens, the leafy, green tops of turnips, are considered a delicacy in the South and have grown in popularity across the rest of the United States thanks to their assertive flavor and hearty nutritional profile. When you’re buying turnip greens, choose ones with consistent color, crisp leaves and slender stems. They are available from October to March because they produce much better in cooler weather.

Turnip greens are a good addition to a healthy diet because they are low in calories, cholesterol, fat and sodium, as well as containing many nutrients, such as vitamin C, folate, potassium and calcium. They can be prepared in a variety of ways, including steaming, blanching and sauteing and used in salads, stews, casseroles or served on their own.

Turnip greens contain calcium oxalates, which can cause health problems if they accumulate and crystallize in the body. If you have a history of gall bladder problems or kidney stones, you may want to avoid turnip greens because of their high oxalate content. The least enjoyable part of preparing fresh greens is getting all the grit off the leaves, and these days you might find pre-washed greens. The easiest way to clean them is in the sink or a very large pot filled with cold water. After cutting the stems and heavy ribs out, place the leaves in the cold water. Let them soak for a few minutes then swish around to loosen grit and sand; drain. Repeat the process two or three times, depending on how gritty the leaves are.

You can preserve them in two different ways, by canning or freezing.

To freeze turnip greens, simply wash to remove the grit and water blanch for about 5-7 minutes to wilt the leaves then cool off quickly and place in freezer safe containers cover with liquid that you blanched them in and put in the freezer.

To Can: You wash to remove grit, blanch 5-7 minutes to wilt the leaves and then put in heated standard canning jars cover with hot liquid from blanching, put on heated lids and screw bands and process in a pressure canner pints, 70 minutes and quarts, 90 minutes. Please do not pressure can in less time than this because turnip greens are a low acid food and could contain botulism which is deadly and requires a specific amount of time to eliminate.

All greens such as spinach, collard, kale, etc can be preserved in the same manner.

Angela Treadaway is the Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety/Preservation and Preparation with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. She can be reached at 410-3696.