The turnip, locally known as ‘Gugej’, is a root vegetable commonly grown in temperate climates worldwide for its white, fleshy taproot. The turnip is thought to have originated in middle and eastern Asia and is grown throughout the temperate zone. Turnips are vegetables with a creamy white colour and a purple top. Both the turnip and its leafy greens are tasty and nutritious. It is the oldest cultivated root vegetable and consumed both by man and animal.
Turnips are round or swollen in shape with a distinct flavour, colour and varieties. The most common type of turnip is mostly white-skinned apart from the upper 1 to 6 centimetres, which protrude above the ground and are purple or red where the sun has hit. This above-ground part develops from stem tissue, but is fused with the root. The interior flesh is entirely white. The root is roughly globular, 5–20 cm (diameter), and lacks side roots. The leaves grow directly from the above-ground shoulder of the root, with little or no visible crown or neck.
Turnip leaves resemble mustard greens in flavour and are eaten as “turnip greens” also known as turnip tops in the UK. The bitter taste of larger leaves is reduced by pouring off the water from the initial boiling and replacing it with fresh water. Turnips have an excellent nutritional value, are low in calories but a pack of vitamins and minerals. Turnips is a good source of calcium, potassium, manganese, vitamin C and dietary fibre, while its greens are loaded with Vitamins A, K, C, B9, luetin, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, making it beneficial for good eyesight.
Turnips provide almost 35% of provitamin A of DV. Both root and greens are a source of vitamin C and vitamin A. Turnip greens are more rich in the fat-soluble vitamins K and A, the type that the body absorbs better when consumed with fats. Vitamin K plays an essential role as a clotting agent, preventing excessive bleeding. Vitamin K also plays an essential role in bone metabolism along with the glucosinolates present in turnip. Also, vitamin A is vital for eye, skin, and lung health. Greens also contain rich amount of folate, that aids in production of RBCs and helps in irregularities in foetus. Glucosinolates are highly present in turnip with three subunits including glucose, amino acid, and sulfate. The glucosinolate concentration is closely associated with the taste of bitterness in turnip greens. The total concentration of soluble sugar in turnip (including leaf and bulb) is about 345 g/kg, in form of glucose, fructose, and sucrose giving it a sweet taste.
Glucosinolates in turnips break down into indoles (arvelexin) and isothiocyanates, both of which are bioactive by-products with anti-inflammatory properties. Arvelexin blocks pro-inflammatory compounds, involved in inflammation process. Breakdown of glucosinolates into isothiocyanates is capable of inhibiting bacterial and microbial growth. Researchers state that phytochemicals present in turnip fight helicobacter pylori and helps in healing of stomach ulcers.
Turnips also promote healthy liver function as it contains vitamin C and high antioxidant content in good amounts. Drinking turnip juice can aid in dissolving the kidney stone if small in size. Some studies also suggest that turnip exhibits the bioactivities including anti-cancer, anti-radiation and anti-oxidation. Turnip root has one more benefit it has been historically used for hypoxia relief for a long time by Tibetan people. Researchers have stated that conventional boiling and high-pressure cooking induced higher loss of total glucosinolates (more than 60%) and total phenolic content (more than 70%), compared with the loss by steaming method (all below 15%). Thus, steaming is a better option to preserve glucosinolates, phenolic compounds, and flavonoids present in the vegetable but levels of Vitamin C drop sharply after cooking.
In Kashmir the greens and roots both are utilised in various forms; either with rajmash, aswazagugej, Tao Gugej, Gugejtemaaz etc. Sundried root and greens are also cooked which have a wonderful taste and is loved as a Kashmiri dish called gugej-i-aratemous, where mous are dried greens of turnip. The roots are dried and called as gugej-i-ara in Kashmiri language. It is cooked mostly with paneer, boiled eggs or even curd. It forms a protein, vitamin and mineral-rich cuisine. It was eaten previously by lower economic class people in Kashmir in old times but proved to be a healthy diet with respect to eyesight.
—The writers are Associate Professors at Division of FST, SKUAST-K, Shalimar. [email protected]