Turnips Before and After the Discovery of Potatoes

The disdain people have for turnips reaches way back in history.  But there used to be a time when this humble tuber was one of the most important food for man and beast – and that was before potatoes were discovered.

Long before potatoes became known to mankind, the turnip has been an integral part of the prehistoric man’s diet.  They were consumed by people in northeastern Europe and Asia where they were said to have originated.

Both the Greeks and Romans used turnips in their food.  Farms all throughout Europe were growing turnips in great quantities as early as 2000BC.

When India was conquered by Aryans, they have forbidden their people from eating the staple food of Indians – and that includes turnips.  They have considered eating what the natives eat as low and demeaning and they refuse for their reputation to be tarnished by eating it.

Since then, it was all downhill for turnips as far as reputation is concerned.  Unpopular individuals were pelt with turnips – a sign of limited view of the said root crop.

Even plays or any artistic flop were called “navet,” the French word for turnips.

But perhaps, the real reason why people unjustly look down on turnips was because it has been associated with and viewed as food of the poor.

Because turnips are hardy and can grow easily in almost any condition, this root crop is inexpensive and easy to have on the table, especially the poor folks.

Regardless of how delicious and healthy turnips are, people have classified, discriminated and snobbed it.

Still, turnips continued to be a vital crop in the middle ages.  Then from Peru came the potatoes.

After eating turnips for 1,500 years, people were intrigued by this new root crop.  By the 1700s, turnip farms have already been replaced by potatoes.

Only when Charles Townshend, a British politician, found that farm animals thrive on turnips did the forgotten tuber was remembered.  He discovered that there was no need to store hay for the animals during winter time, which was expensive.  They can fodder on turnips instead.

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