“I learned that the Westport turnip that only comes out after the first frost through Thanksgiving is actually a Rutabaga,” I announced to my Aunt Kiley this morning on our daily 6 or 7 am phone conversation.
“Rutabaga was one of Grandma’s favorite vegetables,” my aunt replied, “probably because she came from Wisconsin and it is a hardy vegetable like people from the midwest,” she added.
I didn’t know this and it astounds me when my Aunt shares these snippets of memories, mostly relating to food. From there we began talking how to prepare them and my own stories of the Westport turnip, drab and fleshy nude color as its body with a green color as its collar.
It is called the Westport Turnip or The Macomber because according to Linda Murphy from this article from the Fall River Herald, two brothers, Adin and Elihu Macomber bought rutabaga seed back to Westport from the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876. The Macomber brothers’ turnip caught on.
My heart’s happiness and some of my fondest memories of my former in-laws are of food and Westport Turnip is one of the best ones. My mother in law made it every Thanksgiving, just peeling it and boiling it until soft and mashing it with a simple shake of salt and pepper.
"What else did you add to this, Sandy," I would ask, incredulous she didn’t add butter and other ingredients to its rich flavor.
Sweet and comforting, a pleasant surprise for a vegetable that withstands the short planting season of the Midwest or the New England approaching winter. What I love about Westport Turnip though is its tough looking exterior that might make a timid cook shy away from its purchase.
Westport Turnip looks like it would be a bitch to peel and cut up, but if you do make the purchase, you will be surprised at how easy it is to not only peel, but to dice up and boil. No bitterness like a traditional rest of the year turnip. This turnip is sweet and simple fair on the Thanksgiving or winter table. It stores in a dark place for the winter too, hibernating like a jar of canned preserves from springtime strawberries or a freezer bag of chopped tomatoes from the summer garden, turnip of the Westport kind is a pleasant surprise to your taste buds.
My friends at Decastro Farms in Portsmouth, RI carry the delicious vegetable. It isn't just any turnip so make sure you get the official WESTPORT variety.
WESTPORT TURNIP RECIPE
Peel, dice like you are making mashed potatoes, cover with water and bring to a boil uncovered, then cover and cook on medium or medium low depending on the stove heat until easily pierced with fork.
Drain well, mash well, add a good dose of salt and a few grinds of pepper, stir and serve hot. No milk or butter needed. Really.