The Turnip (Brassica Rapa) belongs to the Cruciferous Cabbage
tribe, being often found growing in waste places, though not truly
wild. In this state it is worth nothing to man or beast; but, by
cultivation, it becomes a most valuable food for cattle in the winter,
and a good vegetable for our domestic uses. It exercises some
aperient action, and the liquid in which turnips are boiled will
increase the flow of urine. It
is called also bagie, and was the
gongyle of the Greeks, so named from the roundness of the root.
When mashed, and mixed with bread and milk, the Turnip makes an
excellent cleansing and stimulating poultice for indolent abscesses
The Scotch eat small, yellow-rooted Turnips as we do radishes.
Tastes and Turnips proverbially differ. At Plymouth, and some
other places, when a girl rejects a suitor, she is said to give him
turnips, probably with reference to his sickly pallor of
The seventeenth of June--as the day of St. Botolph, the old turnip
man,--is distinguished by various uses of a Turnip, because in the
Saga, which figuratively represents the seasons, the seeds were
sown on that day.
It is told that the King of Bithynia in some expedition against the
Scythians during the winter, and when at a great distance from the
sea, had a violent  longing for a small fish known as aphy--a
pilchard, or anchovy. His cook cut a Turnip to a perfect imitation of
its shape, which, when fried in oil, well salted, and powdered with
the seeds of a dozen black poppies, so deceived the king that he
praised the root at table as an excellent fish.
Being likely to provoke flatulent distension of the bowels, Turnips
are not a proper vegetable for hysterical persons, or for pregnant
women. The rind is acrimonious, but the tops, when young and
tender, may be boiled for the table as a succulent source of potash,
and other mineral salts in the Spring.
The fermented juice of Turnips will yield an ardent spirit. When
properly cooked they serve to sweeten the blood. An essential
volatile oil contained in the root, chiefly in the rind, disagrees, by
provoking flatulent distension. This root is sometimes cut up and
partly substituted for the peel and pulp of oranges in marmalade.
If Turnips are properly grown in dry, lean, sandy earth, a
wholesome, agreeable sort of bread can be made from them, of
which we have eaten at the greatest persons' tables, and which is
hardly to be distinguished from the best of wheat. Some persons
roast Turnips in paper under the embers, and serve them with butter
and sugar. The juice made into syrup is an old domestic remedy for
coughs and hoarseness.
A nice wholesome dish of Piedmontese Turnips is thus prepared:
Half boil your Turnip, and cut it in slices like half-crowns; butter a
pie dish, and put in the slices, moisten them with a little milk and
weak broth, sprinkle over lightly with bread crumbs, adding pepper
and salt; then bake in the oven until the Turnips become of a light
 The Turnip, a navew, or variety of Rape (navus), should
never be sown in a rich soil, wherein it would become degenerate
and lose its shape as well as its dry agreeable relish. Horace advised
field-grown Turnips as preferable at a banquet to those of garden
culture. They may be safely eaten when raw, having been at one
time much consumed in Russia by the upper classes.
Turnips have been introduced into armorial bearings to represent a
person of liberal disposition who relieves the poor.
Dr. Johnson's famous illustration of false logic ran thus:--
If a man fresh Turnips cries:
But cries not when his father dies,
Is this a proof the man would rather
Possess fresh Turnips than a father?