Choosing what vegetables to plant in the potager garden really just depends on what you like to use in the kitchen. Jim and I come from very different cultural backgrounds, and have very divergent eating styles. I have a penchant for greens because of my Southern background. Something Jim had not thought would appeal to him. Generally we agree to use what space we have for those things that we frequently and commonly use. We decided on a spring and fall planting of turnips. Over winter the turnips grew very well and were very mild and sweet. And they were very big!

A smaller turnip from the winter garden at Mezzacello. Rick Riley | Mezzacello

I think there were a number of transplanted southerners gathering for some comfort foods, and I agreed to make the greens. Turnips were in season versus collards, as so it happened I made them, and he tried them. Jim has planted turnips in the garden twice a year since. We leave them in the ground covered in straw or burlap. We can pull them as needed in the winter. They will taste like the weather they are pulled in. Hot and peppery in summer, and cool and mild in the winter. They are roasted sometimes with the vegetables. Sometimes added to rabbit stew.

A large turnip peeled and without greens. Rick Riley | Mezzacello
Turnip slices. Rick Riley | Mezzacello
Diced turnips ready for the pot! Rick Riley | Mezzacello

Greens are prepared with the diced root. Initially I added apples and apple cider vinegar. Here are some links for inspiration. I added a favorite recipe for winter root pie that I substitute turnips for parsnips in.

TURNIP GREENS

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 pounds ham hocks, rinsed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 bunches fresh turnip greens with roots (about 10 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Preparation

Bring ham hocks and 2 quarts water to a boil in an 8-quart Dutch oven. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is tender.
Remove and discard stems and discolored spots from greens. Chop greens, and wash thoroughly; drain. Peel turnip roots, and cut in half.
Add greens, roots, and sugar to Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 45 to 60 minutes or until greens and roots are tender.

I add diced cooking apples and apple cider to taste.


WINTER ROOT-VEGETABLE POT PIE

Ingredients

  • Cornmeal Biscuit Topping, or as I use, a pie shell
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 small celery ribs, sliced1/2 inch thick
  • Salt
  • 1 large carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 medium parsnips (about 8 to 10 ounces), peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 pound small Red Bliss Potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, plus up to 1/4 cup additional broth as needed when cooking the potatoes
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

SERVES 6 TO 8

While the buttermilk biscuits and flaky pie dough (see related recipes) used for our other pot pies both work well topping this pie, we prefer cornmeal biscuits (see related recipe). The sweet, grainy flavor of the corn pairs well with both the root vegetables and the tangy cheese of the filling. If you don’t have fresh thyme leaves, substitute 1½ teaspoons dried thyme and add it with the broth to the roux.

  1. Make the biscuit topping and refrigerate it until ready to use.
  2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and ¾ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and squash; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften around the edges, about 13 minutes (if the potatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, add vegetable broth, a tablespoon at a time, as needed to loosen). Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the filling to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish (or a shallow casserole dish of similar size) or six 12-ounce ovenproof dishes. Sprinkle the peas evenly over the top and set aside.
  3. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once foaming subsides, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the 1¾ cups vegetable broth and the milk, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheddar. Stir in the vinegar, thyme, parsley, and cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour the sauce over the filling and stir with a wooden spoon to distribute evenly. Arrange the biscuits on top and bake until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbly, 30 minutes for a large pie and about 20 minutes for smaller pies. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

For our winter root vegetable pot pie recipe, we used our chicken pot pie recipe as a starting point, omitting the chicken and adding a variety of vegetables and seasonings to flesh out the filling. We decided that potatoes added necessary heft to our vegetable pot pie recipe. Small Red Bliss potatoes won tasters over with their creamy texture and subtle flavor, and we favored butternut squash over other types of winter squash because it is the easiest to peel and dice. Tasters preferred parsnips to turnips, and peas were a must for their bright color and sweet flavor.

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