cooking in season
G i l fe at her
T U RNIP
“The Gilfeather Turnip Cookbook” makes no excuses for its lead character: “It is not a beautiful vegetable,” the first line plainly states. But what this heirloom Brassica lacks in beauty, it makes up for in fame and sweetness — at least in comparison with most other turnips. The
humble root earned a berth in Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste for outstanding taste
and historical merit and was recently crowned Vermont state vegetable, thanks to
enthusiastic lobbying by elementary school students from its town of origin.
Some suggest that the unusually sweet turnip is actually a rutabaga or that John
Gilfeather, who started farming in Wardsboro in the late 1800s, possibly crossed a
turnip with its milder cousin, the rutabaga, to create his long-storing, biteless turnip.
No matter. This controversy does not detract from the annual Gilfeather Turnip
Festival, in which hundreds come to the small town every October to eat a multicourse Gilfeather turnip meal. There are also turnip donuts, a turnip art show and
a contest for the largest turnip. In fact, there is even an award for the most beautiful
By Melissa Pasanen
With recipe-testing assistance by Sarah Strauss
Photographed by Oliver Parini