Teeny-Tiny Tokyo Turnips: and Other Wee Vegetable Gems

Here's a special treat reserved only for gardeners and quick-eyed farmers' market shoppers: tiny culls of root vegetables, in this case the already tiny Tokyo turnip. But once you're done admiring their cuteness, what can you do with these lovely wee gems?Farmers and gardeners know that rows of direct-seeded vegetables have to be thinned so that the remaining plants can grow to a decent size. Often those culls are tossed, but a savvy farmer decided to bundle up some tokyo turnips and bring them to San Francisco's Inner Sunset Farmers' Market. The minute I saw them I snatched them up.
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After much deliberation, I decided to roast them. I love roasted turnips so I knew the tiny little nips would cook up soft and sweet. But I also loved how they looked whole, with their leaves attached. Would the turnip greens turn crispy and delicious, just like kale chips? I decided it was worth a try.

First I set my oven at 400 degrees. After rinsing the turnip in cool water, I dried them on a tea towel and then arranged them on a baking tray. I drizzled on some olive oil and rolled the turnips around in it so they were evenly coated and then sprinkled them with course sea salt. I popped them in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the greens started crisping up and the little white turnips began to turn golden. I removed them from the oven and served them on a platter with some balsamic vinegar as a dipping sauce.

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How were they? Excellent! The little turnips were sweet and tender, and the greens dissolved in my mouth in an amazing, shattering crunch. The balsamic complemented the flavors, rounding out the sweet and tart beautifully.

I wonder if I'll ever see the teeny-tiny tokyo turnips again, though. They seem like a little treasure that appeared out of nowhere. If I do, next time I will a) taste one raw--why didn't I remember to do that the first time? and b) maybe try to pickle them, again with their leaves attached.

If you're a gardener, I highly recommend saving your root vegetable culls and experimenting with them on your own. I imagine carrots and beets would be very interesting. And very beautiful.

Related: Beets to Cabbage: 20 Recipes for Roasted Vegetables

(Images: Dana Velden)

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