Peas and turnips, late-spring style
A cold, wet May caused setbacks for some local crops: Strawberry growers were struggling, for instance, until the sun came out last week, and some of our usual other late-spring crops have been slow to show up in the markets.
Sugar-snap peas, which love the cool and damp, are an exception: I’ve been buying and eating them weekly, mostly raw (three days last week the lunch I packed to work consisted of a big bag of peas and a dip made from Nancy’s plain yogurt and various dried herbs – yum!). I can’t get enough of these babies.
Speaking of babies: Saturday I got to the market late, but not too late to grab a couple of bunches of baby turnips. Like most “baby” vegetables, these aren’t early versions of regular turnips, they’re a Japanese variety bred for their small size and delicate flavor, and if you’re not fond of big turnips, don’t let that stop you from trying these. No bigger than golf balls, they’re crisp and mild enough to slice and eat raw – but they’re also lovely to cook with. It would be a waste to treat them like their winter cousins, boiled and mashed or thrown in with a pot roast. Like many early-season vegetables, they work best with quick cooking and simple preparations.
I ran across a recipe for baby turnips and peas that sounded delicious, but a little fiddly, what with the blanching and sauteeing. So instead, I combined the vegetables in a quick vegetable roast, and served them alongside smoked pork and home-made apple-and-quince sauce from the freezer. Fabulous.
- 1 bunch baby turnips
- 1/2 cup whole sugar-snap pea pods
- 4-5 garlic scapes* (optional)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp dried herbs (I used a lemon-dill-garlic blend)
- 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
- Sea salt
Preheat oven to 375F.
Trim toff the turnip greens (and save them for another dish!), scrub turnips and pat them dry. Cut larger ones in half so all pieces are roughly the same size. Remove strings from peas if necessary. Cut garlic scape stems in half-inch lengths, leaving the bud and a bit of the curled stem. Toss everything in olive oil and herbs.
Put turnips on a baking sheet, and roast for five minutes. Then add peas and garlic scapes, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, and roast five minutes longer. Toss with lemon zest and serve.
Serves two as a side dish; if you increase the recipe, you probably won’t need more oil.
* Scapes are the flowering buds of plants in the allium family. Hardnecked garlic produces scapes that curl attractively and eventually straighten out to bloom; at the curled stage, they’re a tasty vegetable with a mild garlic flavor. I got mine from my garden, but you can often find them in the market. Try them lightly steamed, or in a stir-fry.