Turnip tops – also known as cime di rapa – have a bitter, peppery flavour with a hint of lemon, and have for years been a staple ‘peasant food’ in Southern Italy. But plenty of upmarket restaurants are now making the leafy winter green the star of its dishes.
Because of the sudden interested in turnip tops, online supermarket Ocado has started stocking them, as well as high-end delicatessens. Shoppers will even pay up to £10 per kilo or £3 for a 300g pack.
Poppy Royds, customer manager at Natoora, which supplies turnip tops to Ocado and 700 restaurants, says of turnip tops’ new-found popularity: “A few years ago it was just specialist chefs who wanted turnip tops but now more and more people are asking for it to use as a side dish with garlic and olive oil, as a pizza topping or to serve as a wilted veg. Sales to households are up 47 per cent.”
Chef and managing partner of Roots Restaurant in York, Matthew Lockwood says: “Turnip tops are one of the finest greens you’ll ever eat, and are the latest in a line of products like kale and sprout tops that are becoming more fashionable to use. This could be a reaction to everyone’s interest in slightly healthier eating and zero-waste culture.”
Matthew added: “I’ve used Cime di rapa many times in the past, and it’s best treated simply to preserve its flavour. To tie in with our preserving season at Roots, turnip tops are often used to make a fantastic kimchi. This allows us to use it throughout the year and repurpose what is still seen as waste by some people.
“Or for a Christmas twist, it works well in a creamy sauce – as Brussels sprouts do – with smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts, as its bitterness cuts through the cream.
“Turnip tops really are a fantastic alternative Christmas dinner vegetable.”
Right, clear off, Brussels…