Shalgham Pokhteh – Turnips (Bless Their Heart)

Ah, turnip! Or shalgham joon, as I call you in Farsi,

I can’t say I have fond childhood memories of you. Probably because I didn’t like you not even one bit but Maman forced you down my throat (figuratively speaking) at the first sign of sniffles or onset of cold. There you were: boiled, colorless, wobbly, and devoid of any taste save for an ungodly one. Dare I say, I found you to be grotesque. I had to hold my nose to eat you! I’m not saying you stank … but wouldn’t you agree that you didn’t necessarily smell the sweetest?

At some point though, I realized that the root of our strained relationship may have been Maman, who tends to overcook her veggies. Now mind you, she is a most glorious cook so I’m in no way dissing her, but the lady doth cooketh her veggies far too long, thus draining them of all vitality and joie de vivre, which may also explain why I did not discover that I am a lover of all things vegetable until I grew up and experienced the many wonders of this, our amazing world.

Now that I know better, I see that you just needed better public relations. I appreciate that you may be plain but that you shine virtuously with inner goodness. I maybe do not love you, still, but I really dig you. No pun intended, you being a root vegetable and all. No, seriously, you are cool. We are cool.

And when you are not overcooked, your texture is alright, resembling a cooked potato; and seasoned properly, why, you taste pretty darn good even; and of course you are super-packed with mighty nutrients and vitamins, so maybe those Iranians touting you as a common household remedy for colds and sniffles and chest pain and such since the days of ancient Persia, know a thing or two after all.

I’m fighting a cold, so I’m reaching out for you. I’m going to scrub you clean, boil you, peel you, and eat you with salt. Once I’m better (correction: once you make me better and thank you, shalgham joon, in advance) I hope to make a yummy āsh with you. Maman, possibly in penance for her days of overcooking you into oblivion, now slices you thinly, sautes you in oil with some finely chopped garlic seasoned wth salt, and let me tell you: there you are, a smashing side dish. Baby: you are a star! I want to give you a try that way as well once I’m no longer on my sick bed. And some day, I’ll attempt to use you in a few of the zillion enticing non-Persian recipes for you on the Internet. Like this roasted turnips with parmesan. Drooling. (See? You did just need better PR.)

So here we are, dear turnip, shalgham joon, years and continents away from when we first met, and isn’t it nice that we are letting bygones be bygones, making such good new memories together? Sigh.

In conclusion, turnip: you move me.




  • Turnips! (As many as your heart desires.)


  1. Trim roots and cut the greens. (You can save the greens which are edible and use it in a soup or ash.) For the most nutritional benefit (to seal in all the nutrients) do not cut the lid or tail off. Scrub turnips with a vegetable brush under running water.
  2. Bring water (enough to cover all the turnips by at least 1/2 inch) to a rapid boil in a pot. Add turnips, reduce flame immediately, and simmer on low heat for for 15-20 minutes or until turnips are tender enough that you can easily puncture with a fork. Do not overcook as it will be its kiss of death! (Hot tip from Maman: to reduce that particular eau-de-turnip, put a slice of bread in the pot. She says it works!)
  3. Drain. Allow turnips to cool off a bit so you won’t burn your hand, then peel back the skins with your finger – it should come off quite easily, and trim the coarse ends of the tail and lid. Quarter each turnip and serve.


Serve hot. (Cold boiled turnip is a thing of horror and must be avoided at all costs, so make sure to serve immediately. while it is still steaming and nice.) Sprinkle with salt as you partake.

Make it, enjoy it in good health, and noosheh jaan!

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Comments (27)

  • apuginthekitchen 9 years ago Reply

    What a great love letter to a turnip, LOL, had to laugh at the bad PR for the illustrious root. I like turnips especially the young spring variety and had never tasted them until Ieft home. Never knew their medicinal value, great post.

    azita 9 years ago Reply

    Ha ha, I have to admit I had fun writing it & oh yeah, turnips are very good for a cold, include them in your winter diet as they will do you good. I think the young spring variety of turnip you refer to is one that we call “candy” turnip. They are smaller, right? I’ll be on the lookout for them in the market.

    apuginthekitchen 9 years ago

    Yes they are small and sweeter than the big turnips. I made a soup out of them
    I love your post, its funny and informative, very well written and the photo’s are great.

    azita 9 years ago

    Good gravy, Suzanne, that soup looks good! Does turnips justice!

    apuginthekitchen 9 years ago

    Thank you the soup is delicious, spring turnips are not as sharp and sweeter the soup is very mild in taste. It’s so nice,

  • mycookinglifebypatty 9 years ago Reply

    Haha! PR for a turnip! But what can we do about disgusting, hold-your-nose beets?

    azita 9 years ago Reply

    Tell me it ain’t so and that you didn’t just diss beets! 😉 I actually love them. Guess what, I have a post under construction about beets and hopefully I can persuade you to see beets in a different light.

    mycookinglifebypatty 9 years ago

    I have a hard time with beets, but I’m willing to try!

    azita 9 years ago

    Cool, deal! Challenge to convert you accepted. 😉

  • Darya 9 years ago Reply

    Such a fun read!

    azita 9 years ago Reply

    Thank you for reading and visiting Darya!

  • johnnysenough hepburn 9 years ago Reply

    Fabulous post, as always!
    I tried turnip for the first time recently and didn’t care for them much. However, I hadn’t thought along the lines of your Mother as in pan-frying them with garlic and salt. So shall try!
    Turnip where I grew up is the yellow swede/rutabaga, btw. It’s only the Southern English that uses this term and this type of turnip…what are you blathering about. Oooh, it’s all so confusing!

    azita 9 years ago Reply

    Hey Johnny, so rutabaga is another name for turnip? Agreed, it’s confusing! They certainly can’t be called delicious but they are good in soup (peel them whole and just throw it in the last 15 minutes or so) and the pan-fry version tastes pretty good.

  • Fae's Twist & Tango 9 years ago Reply

    Azita jan, You are adorable! 😀 )))
    Your Maman is right about the bread. I learned to sprinkle a tbsp of flour in cold water before the water boils when cooking cauliflower, to eliminate it’s smell in the house, and it works.
    My brother-in-law cooks turnip regularly in the winter to avoid catching cold, as it is a natural antibiotic.
    Interestingly, last time on our cruise, there was a slice of turnip in every dish as garnish.
    This was a medicinal and delicious (I like turnips) post! Fae.

    azita 9 years ago Reply

    Very interesting about the turnip garnish in your last cruise. It kind of makes sense – vegetables are having their day in the sun these days.
    I’m glad to get your vote of confidence re bread for eliminating that turnip smell. So you use flour instead – that sounds like a better solution, less wasteful. Thanks for visiting (& your sweet compliments) and sharing the tip Fae joooon!

  • petit4chocolatier 9 years ago Reply

    I love the letter to turnip! Very cute 🙂
    I have never eaten or prepared turnip. Your pictures and story make it sound really good 🙂 Something I need to do now!

    azita 9 years ago Reply

    Thank you Petit! How did I miss your comment? Oopsie. Turnips are not glamorous but they are good for you and consensus seems to be that if sauteed they are rather delicious. They can’t compete with cupcakes though. Specially your spectacular creations.

  • tableofcolors 9 years ago Reply

    Loved your post! 🙂 I love sautéeing turnips with some olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and chili. The perfect addition to any meal!

    azita 9 years ago Reply

    Thank you! I’m still in the boiled turnip phase thanks to my cold but agree with you that sautéd turnips are quite good. I hadn’t heard of spicing it up with chili. Have to try that. Between you and other turnip affectionados, turnip may have its heyday after all. Next: turnip chips! 😉

  • Amy Tong 9 years ago Reply

    What a lovely letter for turnip. 🙂 I have to say, I didn’t like turnips when I was young but learn to love it more and more each day as I grow up. Hope you’re already feeling better by now. Take care.

  • […] may recall that I had no kind words for turnip as a child, maligning and besmirching its reputation at every opportunity, but through […]

  • Shabnam 9 years ago Reply

    Loved loved reading this article. Hated Shalgam growing up but always knew the health benefits. Recently moved to Boston from Los Angeles and caught a cold. First this I did was track down a market and find some turnips. I will be eating them daily to insure I do not get sick this winter 🙂

    Fig & Quince 9 years ago Reply

    Good thinking Shabnam! Try it the “honeypot” method as well, it’s even more potent that way as a preventive/curative measure and here’s to you not getting a cold this winter. And thank you so much for reading & you made my day with your comment. At the risk of sounding like a dweeb who laughs at her own jokes, I have to say that this letter to a turnip is one of my personal favorite posts.

    ps Best wishes re your move/new life in LA!

  • Rowena 7 years ago Reply

    My Persian husband is feeding me turnips to fight a cold right now. Enjoyed your post!

    Fig & Quince 7 years ago Reply

    One of the many advantages of having a Persian husband! 😉

    Get well soon, hope the shalgam does its magic!

    ps Thank you very much for letting me know, it put a smile on my face.

  • […] to say the antibiotic assistance of good ol’ turnip, aka shalgham joon, my former nemesis and now treasured buddy, was called on straight […]

  • […] memories of their mothers forcing them to eat turnips as a child when they caught a cold (just read Fig and Quince’s hilarious memories and how she now thinks the turnip just needs better PR- gotta love it!) But I have no such […]

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