As all you parents and students know, the end of school is right around the corner…and along with events like open houses, finals, recitals, sports awards and yearbooks comes the closing of another part of school, and that’s the tasty part. That’s right, this school year’s Harvest of the Month (HOTM) program is wrapping up, and what better way to say goodbye for the summer than with a turnip? Yes, nothing says hello summer like a salad turnip. You think I’m kidding, but bite into one of these succulent beauties and you’ll remember that summer is the best time for cool, raw vegetables, and they even help out maintaining a good looking swimsuit bod! So spice up that crudité platter with a salad turnip, a local farm favorite. More about the tremendous turnip later, like a final that needs completing, we’ve got to share the HOTM yearbook with you and remember all the tastes of 2014-15 school year.
Wrapping up the third year of this popular program (does that make us seniors now?) here’s Sierra Harvest’s 2014-15 HOTM year in review by the numbers.
This school year, Sierra Harvest coordinated and distributed over 3 TONS of local produce to 19 area schools, serving more than 6,000 students- that’s 89% of the K-8 population in western Nevada County!
Since this program began, Sierra Harvest has helped to bring 28,000 pounds of local produce into the bellies of local students, and in this time we’ve tracked a whopping 43% increase in students liking the fruits and veggies that they taste in the classroom each month. This year, those tastings were of the following local foods: tomatoes, peppers, radishes, persimmons, mandarins, dried plums, cabbage, baby kale and salad turnips!
You may be wondering- 19 schools, thousands of pounds of produce, busy teachers- how on earth does this happen? It doesn’t just happen once either, it’s every month of the school year. This complicated logistical dance happens through Sierra Harvest’s amazing, dedicated team of farm to school liaisons! The produce is sourced from a local farmer, and once it is delivered, the liaisons descend and get to work- each picks up their produce, goes back to their school, counts it out and distributes it to 270 classrooms, along with surveys and newsletters. Some even go the extra mile to do tasting demonstrations, or make coleslaw or kale chips out of any extra produce to share. So let’s give it up for these tremendous liaisons, without which there would be no Harvest of the Month (or any of the other parts of farm to school!).
Now that our HOTM final is over, here are a few more tidbits about salad turnips for your enjoyment.
Salad turnips, also known as Japanese turnips are tender, sweet, white turnips that can be eaten raw, or gently cooked. Closer to a radish than a traditional turnip, these turnips are easy to grow and even easier to eat. A true farmer’s market treat, many local growers have salad turnips available throughout the growing season. Mountain Bounty Farm grew the turnips for May’s tastings.
A few fun facts about the salad turnip or “neep”:
- Turnips were first known as “neeps,” which came from the Latin word for turnip “napus.
- Turnips have been enjoyed since ancient times, when they were cultivated nearly 4,000 years ago in the Near East. This round, apple-sized vegetable was prized by the Greeks and the Romans, and was even called one of the most important vegetables of the time by ancient author Pliny the Elder.
- Forget the pumpkin; the turnip was the original jack-o`- lantern! Some 2,000 years ago, the Druids made turnip lanterns to discourage evil spirits during Samhain (Halloween).
- Raw turnips contain a range of vitamins and minerals that benefit your health. Turnip root provides a rich source of vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that also contributes to the health of your bones and skin.
Often, Salad Turnips are referred to by their variety name, which is Hakurei or Tokyo Market. Or, go old school and call them neeps. Whatever you decide, here’s a recipe from Serious Eats or a quick pickled Hakurei that’s sure to please.
Quick Pickled Hakurei Turnips
An easy, tasty pickle.
- 1 bunch hakurei turnips
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 tea black peppercorns, crushed
- 3 thin slices of ginger
Wash turnips well and slice them thinly (a mandolin works well if you have one). Place turnip slices in a small bowl and toss with the salt. Let rest until there is a pool of liquid on the bottom of the bowl, about 30 minutes. Drain turnips of the salty water and pack into a pint sized mason jar. Add vinegar, sugar, pepper and ginger slices. Apply a watertight lid and shake to combine. Place pickled turnips in the fridge and chill before eating. Pickles can be eaten within an hour of being made and will keep for at least a week.