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The Chinese have a term for children–expressive of both their sweetness and their humour value.  They call them…little turnip heads.  Hakurei turnips–small, smooth-skinned and crisply fresh–provide a visual of the vegetable that makes sense of the comparison between a child and this edible root.

There is much besides their satisfactory appearance to recommend Hakurei turnips.  They are edible from leafy top to their root’s pointed tip and require minimal attentions from the cook in order to become delicious.  For the Dinner Menu:  An Evening with the Classics, Hakurei turnips, with an inch or two of their stem still attached, go into a slow oven.  It isn’t a matter of baking or roasting them but, rather, simply applying a little indirect heat until they turn soft and sweet beneath their coating of paprika, oregano, and Parmesan, and the attached bits of stem begin to brown.  The rest of the greens are stir-fried for a minute or two and everything, at length, is combined and results in a happy mixture of flavours and textures that is lovely to look at as well as to eat.

Hakurei Turnips, Herbed and Spiced, and their Stir-fried Greens (for 4 people, or buy a few more turnips and add a bit more herb and spice for more)

Note:  To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon:  Print & PDF.

I.  Making the Turnips

Ingredients: quantities of herbs, spices and oil are not meant to be exact, only suggestive

  • 1 pound of Hakurei Turnips with their greens
  • 1 teaspoon of Sweet Paprika; Szegedi, a Hungarian Paprika found in many American supermarkets, is one of the best
  • 1 teaspoon of Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried Oregano or double that amount of fresh if you have it
  • 3 Tablespoons of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup of grated Fresh Parmesan
  • freshly ground Black Pepper and Salt


  • a Baking Pan
  • a sheet of Parchment Paper for lining the Pan

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Streak the Baking Pan with butter (to prevent the Parchment Paper from sliding about) and line the Pan with the Parchment Paper…

…Then cut the Greens from the turnips, leaving a couple of inches of stem on the turnips:

2.  Wash and dry the turnips well–there’s no need to peel them–and scrape away any brown spots at the base of the stems where they join the root:

3.  Cut through the turnips lengthwise from stem to root tip–leave the smaller ones in halves and cut the larger ones again lengthwise into quarters:

4.  Spread the turnips on the Baking Pan and sprinkle them with the Paprika, Oregano, Garlic Powder,the Parmesan, and a few gratings of Black Pepper and Salt.  Then drizzle the Olive Oil over it all:

5.  The turnips may be made up to this point and set aside to be finished later…

… or placed in the oven, cooked untill they are done, taken out, and briefly reheated, if they aren’t served right away, before arranging them on plates with the Stir-fried Greens. In either case, let the turnips cook in the oven until they are tender, wrinkly, and the stems start to brown—about 30 minutes.

6.  Made in this fashion, Hakurei turnips may be served alone….

…or with their stir-fried Greens as described below:

II. Stir-frying the Turnip Greens:  the Greens require only a few minutes of cooking and are best when stir-fried right before serving–either mixed with the Hakurei Turnips or alone

Ingredients: the amounts of seasonings are only meant to suggest, and should be altered to suit individual tastes

  • the Greens from a pound of Hakurei Turnips
  • 3 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • about 1/8 cup of finely chopped Onion: White Onion is used in the photographed steps, but Yellow Onion will be fine
  • 1 teaspoon of Cracked Red Pepper
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • freshly ground Black Pepper and Salt


  • a wok or a wide, heavy-bottomed pan
  • a spatula or wooden spoon

1.  Chop the Turnip Greens into segments.  Uniformity isn’t important:

2.  Heat the Olive Oil over Medium Heat, add the Garlic, Onion and Cracked Red Pepper…

…and sautee them, stirring with the wooden spoon or spatula…

until the Garlic is mostly browned:

3.  Add the chopped Greens..

…and mix them well with the ingredients already in the wok:

4.  Add 3 Tablespoons of Water and continue to stir-fry the Greens until the water evaporates, the leaves begin to wilt and the stems to cook.  The Greens will be ready in a matter of minutes– when some leaves are totally wilted, others only beginning to wilt, and the stems are no longer raw-looking:

5.  Place some Greens around each serving of Turnips…

…or serve Stir-fried Greens all by themselves:

A Note about Olive Oil:  The label ‘Extra-Virgin’ on a bottle of olive oil does not guarantee that the oil is pure and not chemically treated to hide the fact that it is not as advertised.  European and American sellers, including some well-known brand names, have been known to take advantage of the market’s unregulated state to sell sub-standard oil at the price of the genuine article.  You increase the likelihood of getting what you pay for, i.e., Extra-Virgiin, unadulterated Olive Oil, by buying oil bottled in dark glass (not in clear glass or in plastic containers) and which has the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) seal on the label if it is an American oil or, for oil coming from a country in the European Union, the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) seal. Tom Mueller’s article in The NewYorker, “Letter from Italy:  Slippery Business:  The trade in adulterated olive oil” is a worthwhile read for anyone who uses olive oil.  Recently, Mr. Mueller expanded this article into a book, Extra Virginity.  

A Second Note:  Look for ‘little turnip heads’ in your local farmer’s market, if you are fortunate enough to live near one. 

A Final Note:  Hakurei Turnips, Herbed and Spiced, and their Stir-Fried Greens accompany the Main Course in the Dinner Menu:  An Evening with the Classics.  

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012