This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
(See also Roots).
Belonging to the Cabbage tribe of plants, the Turnip (Brassica rapa) is often found growing of itself in waste places, though not truly wild. As stated among Roots (page 595), it possesses certain medicinal virtues. Tusser (1573) called the Turnip "a kitchen-garden root, to boil in butter." It was not until long after Tusser's time that the Turnip became used as a winter food for sheep, - towards the end of the seventeenth century. Though containing over 85 per cent of water, yet this root affords a considerable proportion of nutriment, and is powerfully anti-scorbutic. Syrup made with Turnip juice is an old domestic remedy for chronic cough with hoarseness. For preparing white Turnip juice: "Peel, and grate white Turnips, and squeeze their juice through a cloth; then strain it through a clean napkin; to a quart of this juice add three-tenths of a pound of coarsely-pounded candied sugar; let it dissolve, and boil till it becomes somewhat thick; when this has cooled, strain it again, and pour it into glasses. As a cough remedy take a teaspoonful several times in the day." Some cooks roast Turnips in paper under the embers, serving them with butter, and sugar.
It is best to sow Turnips in an arid rather than in a rich soil, wherein it would become degenerate, and would soon lose its dry, agreeable relish. The young Turnips when growing up thickly need to be thinned with an unsparing hand, because, in order to thrive, they require plenty of room. Accordingly a trite old proverb says, "No man should hoe his own turnips," which implies that neither should anyone eat and drink to excess, so as to surfeit and clog his system; but should obey the discipline of a judicious dietist. Again, another axiom tells that "Turnips, and Tastes (proverbially) differ." The 17th of June is the day of Saint Botolph, the old (Saga) Turnip-man. It is told that the King of Bithynia, in some expedition against the Scythians during the winter season, and when at a great distance from the sea, had a violent longing for a certain small fish known then as aphy, a pilchard, or anchovy. His cook cut a Turnip to a perfect imitation of the said fish in shape, which, when fried in oil, well salted, and powdered with the seeds of black poppies, so deceived the King that he praised the root at table as a most excellent fish.
From a large Swede Turnip may be constructed a handsome ornamental substitute for a flower-pot, by scooping out the centre, and then hanging it by three wires, or strings, head downwards. The leaves at once begin to grow, and to curl upwards so as to enfold the tuber, making thus a decorative vase into which a flower in pot (such as a fuschia) may be attractively fitted, though the pot itself should be removed, and the flower planted in loam, or cocoanut fibre, within the hollow Turnip.
For a "Puree de navets au gratin": "Take as ingredients two pounds of young Turnips, one quarter of an ounce of flour, half a pint of good generous stock, with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, three ounces of butter, one gill of cream, one medium-sized onion, and some bread-crumbs. Wash, peel, and slice the Turnips, and put them into cold water, with a little salt; peel, and blanch the onion, and chop it fine, then cooking it for ten minutes in an ounce of butter; add the flour, and cook a little without browning; moisten with the stock, and boil up whilst stirring; cook thus for ten minutes; now mix both the Turnips, and the thickened stock, and let them simmer for about half an hour; pass all through a sieve; season to taste with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar, also some grated nutmeg; arrange in a pile on the dish, covering it with white sauce, and sprinkle over with bread-crumbs; divide the remainder of the butter into little bits on the top; bake for ten, or fifteen minutes in a hot oven, and serve whilst very hot".