The turnip (Brassica rapa) is a root vegetable, usually white or purple. It has many different common names throughout the world, including "swedes", "neeps", and "turnips". The most frequently encountered cultivars of turnip are either white or yellow in color. There are also red-fleshed turnips, however, these are less common in most parts of the world. Turnip plants often reach between 50 cm to 100 cm in height. The leaves are alternate and compound, with white or purple flowers that develop into yellowish-white edible roots when harvested. A root vegetable like others (carrots, parsnips, etc.), turnips are frequently grown for the consumption of their starchy taproots.
The lower leaves are also sometimes eaten as part of the turnip greens or leafy turnip tops, which are popularly served alongside vinegar. The young leaves may also be boiled and served with butter like other cooking greens, while older leaves can be consumed the same way as mustard greens. Turnips can be roasted, boiled, or fried and are frequently eaten mashed in a variety of ways. Scraps left after pureeing have been used for bread making in Norfolk, England. The turnip also has a place in Scottish cuisine: In Eastern Scotland (where turnips were introduced from the continent in the early Middle Ages), they are widely used - often mashed together with potatoes.
They are also very popular in Germany, Eastern Europe, and the Baltic region, where it is a traditional winter dish to use up leftover boiled or mashed turnips. It is usually slowly cooked for several hours with onions and sometimes other vegetables like carrots, celeriac, cabbage, or sometimes meat. The turnip is also commonly used in Japanese cuisine, where it is known as "Nagaimo". It's often grated to thicken sauces and soups, cooked on its own with other root vegetables, put into pickles, or added raw to salads.
The production of turnips is a large industry in Japan, where the roots are called "daikon," meaning large root. In 2001, Japan produced more than 2 million tonnes (2.2 million tons) of daikons each year and exported a considerable amount to South Korea and other Asian countries. Most of the crop was grown on the island of Hokkaido. Japan also grew an average of 10 percent of the global supply of rapeseed (a source for biodiesel fuel and health-food oils), and daikon was its most important market variety.