Spring Turnip Pickle

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Even though we’re basically farmers ourselves I can’t help but go to area farmers markets whenever I can. That is the one consolation prize for getting our garden prepped a little too late, or not getting those earliest seeds in the ground. Every year I say the same thing, “we have to make sure we get the root veggie seeds in the ground early!” Because if you wait until too late, and it’s too hot while they’re growing they can get tough and pithy. Or worse yet, one year the beets didn’t even grow. But we have a little shindig we’re throwing this labor day weekend that has kept us in the office more than out in the garden.

Speaking of growing beats. All in all, our garden is growing along nicely, nothing quite ready yet, so I have been enjoying going to the first farmers markets of the season up here in the berkshires and picking up the first tender spring veggies.

These lovely turnips were grown in the hudson valley at the farm at millers crossing. And on display at the lenox famers market. There were two bunches left on the table, I could have sworn when I walked by I heard a bunch (or 2) of wee little voices saying, “hey you, pickle me!” …it could have been my imagination. Regardless, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Left (pronounced lefit) are ubiquitous in the middle east. You can see jars of them in the windows of cafes & restaurants and on the shelves and street corners of pickle vendors. I am sure there are as many subtle variations as there are pickle makers.

These pickles ferment, the turnips soften a bit, and the raw vegetable flavor mellows. In turn you get slightly sour, just salty enough lightly fermented turnips that pair perfectly with home-made hummus, warm pita bread, and strained yogurt drizzled with olive oil.

Spring Turnip Pickles (Torshi Left)

adapted from the new book of middle eastern food


1 pound small spring turnips, cut in half or quartered
1/2 small beet, sliced
water (1 2/3 cups)
salt (1 1/2 tablespoons)
white wine vinegar (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 quart or liter jar


Wash jar in hot soapy water, or put through the dishwasher. Cut turnips in half if small, quarters if slightly larger. if your turnips are large you should peel them. If you are making this with small, young spring turnips, no need to peel.

Peel and slice beet. I used a whole larger beet for this because I didn’t have a smaller one and I didn’t have a plan for the other half of beet. so this batch came out a bit darker than usual. I really do recommend using a half of a smallish beet, or a whole very small beet. what you will end up with will be lighter, an almost neon fuchsia colored pickled turnip. And who doesn’t want that?

Pack the pieces in a jar, placing the couple of beet slices in between turnips. Boil the water, salt, and vinegar. When it just comes to the boil, take off heat and let cool. When it is cool, or mostly cool, pour into the jar and cover.

Store at room temperature, in a warm place, for 3-5 days. taste after 3 days to see if the raw taste is gone and the turnips have softened and taste lightly fermented. They will get a bit softer and more fermented if left in warmth for another day or two. It is really a matter of taste.

When ready put jar in fridge, they will last up to 6 weeks. The cold temperature will slow down the fermenting process but you may start to notice they are softening more, and the fermented flavor is getting stronger as it gets to the 6 week mark.

I don’t think you’ll have to worry about them sitting in your fridge for 6 weeks though. That’s why I like to keep the batches small, and make Left a few times each spring. Because really, pickling can’t get much easier than this!

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