The Tender Turnips Of Spring

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Hakurei turnips are as crunchy-sweet as an apple

Shoots & Roots

Our local farmers market opens in April and despite the drizzly Saturdays, the aisles are full of well supplied stalls and eager purchasers. One of the most sought after spring offerings are greens and root crops, notably the tender crisp Japanese White turnips known as hakurei. A neighbor generously shared some with me and their sweet-hot crunchiness immediately became my go-to afternoon snack. Crisp as apples, hakurei or Japanese White turnips are so tender that you can eat them out of hand. The flavor starts off sweet then a tangy bit of bite develops as more complex, peppery flavors build, making these spring beauties intriguingly crunchy additions to green salads. The turnip bulbs are so thin skinned that you don’t really need to peel them and the greens combine fresh sweetness with earthy undertones

Despite the ongoing cold and drizzly days, I’ve been longing for fresher tasting food, especially spring salads with more snap to them. Building a satisfying salad involves paying attention to several qualities, from flavor and texture to color and shape. Making a great salad is an art form, kind of like haiku; take 6-8 ingredients and make them sing together. I like to mix soft and crunchy textures with a range of flavors from tart and sweet to savory and earthy.

Raw Turnip Spring Salad

2 small Japanese White turnips with greens
2-3 leaves frilly kale
1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup arugula or radicchio
1-2 teaspoons plain rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt or herb salt
1/2 cup raspberries or blueberries
1/4 toasted walnuts
1-2 tablespoons hulled pumpkin seeds

Peel (optional) the turnips and cut in thin wedges, then chop the turnip greens finely, put them both in a serving bowl. Fold kale in half and cut away the stem and central rib, then chop coarsely and add to the bowl with the cabbage. Tear arugula into bite sized pieces, add to the bowl, sprinkle with rice vinegar and salt and toss gently. Let sit for 10 minutes, add remaining ingredients and serve. Serves 2-4.

Meanwhile On The Home Front

After over a month at Harborview/UW Hospital, my daughter finally came home on Friday. Technically, she was supposed to go to a SNF (skilled nursing facility in hospital talk), but around here, the nursing homes are packed, thanks to yet another wave of covid. Coming home was a second option, but because of the amount of care she still needs, she was supposed to have a home health team coming to the house several times a week. Since nobody in our area is accepting Medicaid patients right now (all their Medicaid beds or patient slots are full), we got…nothing.

For us, that’s more of an inconvenience than a problem, since we are blessed with skilled friends who are willing to help us out. However, I keep thinking about the people who don’t have such resources. Imagine being an elder person caregiving for an aging partner, or a mom with a sick offspring with heavy care needs and not being able to get home help unless you can pay out of pocket. To top it off, if Medicaid doesn’t ok the expense, it’s illegal for any agency or institution to provide those services if they’re paid out of pocket. Does that seem punitive? Apparently the idea is that if someone like a relative or friend CAN pay, then Medicaid won’t.

Another New Normal

In our case, Medicaid was fine with paying for the services but no practitioners who accept Medicaid and come to the home are locally available. Fortunately for us, a friend who’s an Occupational Therapist has agreed to come to the house and work with my daughter several times a week. Even better, they totally hit it off, as she’s queer friendly, smart, funny and very kind. She’s also very good at giving clear directions with detailed explanations. After just one visit, we both already see a difference in my daughter’s mobility and strength.

The days have been so dense, what with figuring out what needs to be done and finding better ways to do various things that it’s hard to remember that it’s only been three days; it feels like a week at least. We’ve made lists to keep track of the timing of her wound care and skin treatments and exercises and I’m keeping a log so we can track her progress. We are figuring out what she can eat and when and how much as she and her new ileostomy adjust from hospital fare to home cooked whole foods. It can feel overwhelming but we’re already finding our rhythm and finding ways to organize our time so my daughter gets the multiple care sessions she needs and I get to go for a walk or putter in the garden or run to the store. After the trauma and trials of the past few months, we’re both feeling enormous relief and gratitude. Onward, right?

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