When the State of Vermont announced it had chosen a state vegetable, I thought, how fun. Perhaps it will be a locally bred tomato or a funky purple carrot. But no, it was announced, without a shred of irony, that the vegetable that best represents us is… a turnip: the Gilfeather turnip, originating from Wardsboro, Vermont, circa 1902.
Turnips are not exactly a culinary darling. They carry with them connotations of ignorance, as seen in the phrase, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip cart.” No child has ever yelled, “yay” when they heard turnips are on the menu. And the Gilfeather, it must be said, is not going to win any beauty contests. What does this say about our state?!
Being a curious cook, however, I located some fresh Gilfeather turnips this fall. Now I get it. They are delicious. I tried a batch roasted and glazed with our Cardamom Infused Maple Syrup and the combination was out of this world. The sweet cardamom was the ideal match for the tangy turnip. And as far as a vegetable that best represents us, consider this: these turnips are at their best after a good hard frost. The cold brings out their sweetest nature when other vegetables whither. I’d say that represents us pretty well. We show our best selves in the cold, we exceed expectations despite having a reputation for being a bunch of hippies and woodchucks, and are really delightful underneath a sometimes rough exterior.
This recipe can, of course, be made with regular turnips or rutabaga, but make sure they are fresh. And if you want to know just how good the Gilfeather is, you are just going to have to visit.