Mid-December:The Spirit of Gleaning

This week, a group of volunteer gleaners from the Society of St. Andrew visited the farm to pull turnips. Planted in the fall as a cover crop, the turnips are beauties and until recently our intent was to leave them in place, eventually to become organic compost. But the issue of hunger is real and with area food banks in need of donations, it seemed fitting to share. On a crisp, clear morning the group arrived, and for awhile the field was alive with industrious women gabbing about various ways to use turnips in the kitchen. I paid attention because I've experimented lately with a few dishes myself, the best being a turnip "cassoulet" that used the greens. A friend of mine made an awesome looking hash using cubed turnips, potatoes, and cranberries dressed in a brown sugar glaze. Other suggestions ranged from turnip fries, creamed turnips, whole roasted turnips, and turnips as an ingredient in stuffing (aka dressing). Or, how about turnip fluff, so named because of its souffle-like texture? Of course, turnips can be eaten raw, grated on salads, or placed on a vegie tray with dip. Nutritionally, the greens contain vitamins A and C, calcium and iron; the root is a fair source of vitamin C.

Food banks generally request nonperishable items, but turnips are tough, and, as vegetables go, they have a long shelf life. My grandmother used to winter turnips in a cold barn under a layer of straw, according to my mother. This week, it didn't take long to fill every box and bag. At the end of the morning, piles of turnips were divided and distributed to each volunteer who then headed off to area food banks - namely, Second Harvest Food Bank in Forsyth County and Storehouse for Jesus in Davie County. To learn more about gleaning and the Society of St. Andrew, visit www.endhunger.org  By the way, what's your favorite turnip dish? I'd love to hear from you!