With a spell of a scratchy throat afflicting yours truly, I was prompted to avail myself of the goodness of shalgham va assal, or “honeypot turnip” as I’ve come to dub it, and it motivated me to finally send this homemade (and I must say charming) cure your way.
You may recall that I had no kind words for turnip as a child, maligning and besmirching its reputation at every opportunity, but through it all, turnip turned the other cheek, never badmouthing me in kind, and then I grew up, developed a more curious palette, tasted perfectly-cooked as opposed to overcooked turnip, and in a shocking yet redeeming twist of fate I’m now rather devoted to the homely sweet fellow. Picture us — not me and you, me and turnip that is — in a field of golden wheat under a blue sky with a perfect breeze, running towards each other in slow motion. It’s love!
I mean, do you think it’s a coincidence that I picked a turnip that upon inspection at home revealed itself to wear a heart on its skin? Granted, I do see hearts everywhere (that’s another story) but this is kizmet. Meant to be. (Do you see it? Top right side.)
But to start at the beginning:
A few months ago, and just before embarking on an ambitious voyage, my esteemed mother developed a mean and nasty cough + chest pain and nothing seemed to help, not even antibiotics. It so happened that she paid a visit to their local International grocer to stock up on the types of provisions that many Iranian kadbanoos are loath to run out of, but truth be told, to also pick up a copy of the Persian newspaper that she enjoys so much because of its crossword puzzles. (The lady, I tell you, is partial to her crossword puzzles. English or Persian, so long as there’s a battle of wits with an ofoghi & amoodi or “Down” & “Across” she is happy. I do not relate to this at all.)
This particular store (a well-run, well-stocked establishment from what I’ve gathered) is operated by an Iranian gentleman by the name of Aghaye Kazerooni, who is reputed to know a thing or two or three. As long as she was there, my mom decided to solicit Mr. Kazerooni’s opinion for a possible herbal remedy for her ailment and he said: “khanoom, shoma shalgham ba assal bayad dorost konid.” That is: “M’am, you should make turnip-with-honey.” But my mom had never heard of such a thing and didn’t know how so he explained it and Maman did it and reported that it didn’t cure her per se but it seemed to have helped quite a bit and we both agreed that as far as homemade remedies go, this is a rather cute one.
Recently I told my mom that I was finally getting around writing this post and asked her to jog my memory about how it came about that Aghaye Kazerooni told her about the honeypot shalgham. We chatted over the phone to our heart’s content re the subject. Then afterwards this is what she wrote me in an email:
Azi joon, about the turnip story regarding aghaye Kazerooni I think it would not be a bad idea to mention that he is a nice, considerate guy sharing the wisdom he has gathered from his mother and friends. HE REALLY IS A SINCERE, WISE MAN !
Isn’t my mom the cutest? So there you have it. Mr. Kazerooni, a really sincere and wise man, has endorsed honeypot turnip as a very good homemade cure for a sore throat, cough, or chest pain. How can one argue with that? One can’t.
Here’s how you make a honeypot turnip:
1. Start with a nice, washed and scrubbed, turnip. Heart-shaped-marked turnips are optional and a matter of rare blessings and pure happenstance.
2. Mercilessly chop off the poor turnip’s head. Briefly wonder what it must have felt like to have been guillotined or to have witnessed the act. Recoil in horror and toss those thoughts aside. But do not toss the turnip’s head! Set it aside to later use as a hat. For the turnip that is – not yourself. But actually, wait … who am I interfere? You could start a turnip-hat fad if that’s what you like and it brings you a degree of happiness.
3. Dig and excavate inside the turnip to create a hollow cavity but leave a 1/2 to 1/4 inch wall of turnip intact. (If so inclined, execute, oops poor choice of words, I mean conduct, yes, conduct excavation with refined elegance, using a mellon-baller for example, to dig out perfect round turnip balls which you can then put to various most excellent gastronomical use. I made honey-glazed caramelized turnips with mine that came out like a jam and tasted intriguing and mmm, mmm, mmm good.)
4. Fill the turnip cavity with the best honey you have at hand. Cover the turnip’s top with its chopped off head, errr, I mean hat. Then place the turnip in a container dish, otherwise you’ll literally have a sticky mess on your hands because some of the honey is going to seep out of the turnip later on in the process. (I used my coffee mug that’s roomy enough to house a turnip.)
5. Store the turnip in a cool dark place – or inside the fridge – and give it a timeout for at least several and up to 12 hours. During this time, the longer the better, the honey and turnip will engage in an alchemical dialogue of rumination, absorption and melange, in the process creating an elixir full of goodness and antioxidants and magic, but no glittery sparkles though, alas. You can’t have everything! Unless you are Blake Lively.
6. Once timeout is up, return turnip to the light of day, remove its hat, and consume the honey that has seeped out into the container as well as the honey that remains inside the turnip. The consistency of this honey will be much less viscuous, more liquid than it would be in its natural state. Immediately sense a surge of strong antioxidants flowing through your veins and experience a burst of vitality and well being.
7. With a heart full of goodwill and gratitude tinged with sadness dispose of the sacrificial turnip with as much pomp and ceremony as you can dispense.