The first big event in the 2020 food calendar takes place this Saturday in the form on Burns Night. For those with Scottish connections looking to serve traditional neeps & tatties (and maybe a veggie haggis), we‘ve stocked up on Lincolnshire swede and Yorkshire turnips. They aren’t the most glamourous of vegetables, but they have a rich and long history.
Both are members of the brassica family, along with all cabbages, cress, rocket and radishes. And although their names become intertwined as you move north, they are pretty different. Turnips came first by a long way (prehistoric!) and by the 19th century more than 50 varieties existed, though you will have to look long and hard to find that many now. They actually come in all shapes, sizes and colours, from black to purple to yellow.
Swedes appeared around 1600 in southern Germany and did not reach Britain until the mid-18th century, via Holland. They were originally grown as animal fodder and eaten only as a last resort by the rural poor. The name is an abbreviation of ‘Swedish turnip’ and in fact it is thought to be a cross between a cabbage and a turnip.
Ending with news from Europe: snow in France & Spain has led to motorway closures on the continent. We have placed our orders, but now we have to wait for them to turn up. Fingers crossed!