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There’s no denying that the best way of spending a cold Sunday night is staying at home with a steaming bowl of a delicious stew. And the heart of any stew is — Root vegetables.
Sure, potatoes and carrots are great. But there’s a variety of veggies out there just waiting to be a part of your hearty cold-weather dish. Two such underrated similar root vegetables that will completely revitalize your recipes are turnips and radishes. But wait, aren’t they sort of of the same thing? Nope, they aren’t.
Botanically, both of these vegetables belong to the same plant family — Brassicaceae. Brassicaceae cover all the green leafy vegetables that bear flowers shaped like a cross (all such vegetable plants are called crucifers).
Although belonging to the same plant family, turnip and radish are two distinct vegetables.
What is the main difference between turnips and radishes?
Turnips are 2 to 3 inches in diameter with a purplish hue to their tops. On the other hand, radishes are smaller in diameter, typically 2-3 cm, with red skin. On the taste part, younger turnips are spicy with a delightful crunchy, crisp texture and larger turnips can have a mild taste. While radishes are much more pungent, having a peppery flavor and a much stronger savory taste than turnips.
Here are some more insights into the differences between these round, flavor-packed root vegetables.
More differences between turnip and radish
The appearance and taste of radish and turnip are pretty different; still, some of us may get confused by the two vegetables (Maybe due to their globe-like structure or their vibrant white flesh that looks quite similar). So, to clear the confusion for once and for good, here are the primary differences between turnip and radish:
Turnips grow in temperate soils, and an average harvest takes 55-60 days to complete.
The best time to sow turnip seeds is spring to fall when the temperature ranges between mild to moderately hot.
You can harvest turnips at many stages. There are two primary methods of harvesting turnips; either you take out the whole root with the green top, or you first cut the green top and let the roots grow more to harvest.
When harvested with the greens, the roots are relatively sweeter than the more matured turnips harvested after their tops are already cut off.
Radishes, in contrast, have a much shorter harvesting cycle. You can grow their seeds and get your harvest within three weeks which is almost half of a turnip's harvest.
The ideal time for sowing the seeds is in early spring or fall (depending on when you want the harvest).
When the radishes start appearing one inch on top of the ground, it's ideal for harvesting them.
Typically, a small early harvested turnip will have a sweet and mildly pungent flavor. As the vegetable grows, the turnip taste will get bitter and much spicier than the small vegetable.
Raw turnips have crunchy flesh that mostly suits salads. In their cooked form, though, the vegetable tastes much sweeter, less pungent and bitter and gets a mild earthy, nutty flavor that enhances many dishes.
The flavor of the edible leaves of turnips is usually bitter, but people consume it in various parts of the UK, Canada and the US. To cut the bitterness, boiling and straining work well.
Raw radishes, in comparison to turnips, are much spicier. The red radish has a peppery, zesty flavor that makes it a unique part of a salad bowl.
Cooked radishes lose much of their spice and taste similar to potatoes. You can even replace potatoes with radishes as a much healthier vegetable option.
Radish Greens, just like turnip tops, are also edible. You can consume them as a stir fry or fold them in a frittata. Mature leaves are bitter, but smaller radish leaves can become a part of any salad bowl.
Turnips can have some variants that look different from each other. The regular turnip has white skin with a purplish hue at the top (below the plant's crown). This purple hue develops as a result of exposure to sunlight.
But purple is not the only color you can find a turnip in. Another variety of turnips has a yellow hue to the skin. We know that variant as Rutabaga.
Although there are stark differences between turnips and Rutabaga, we don't intend to discuss them here.
Similarly, radish also doesn't have only one appearance. The dominant variant are red radishes that have red skin and small round bulbs.
Other varieties, such as Daikon, have a long white, cylindrical appearance.
Some radishes (such as the watermelon radish) can have colored flesh, while most have dull to bright white flesh.
However, both turnips and radishes have many varieties that can easily confuse someone on a vegetable hunt.
Turnips can work quite well if stored properly. Once taken from the ground, wrapping them in plastic and refrigerating them will keep them intact for a few weeks.
Ideally, you should store the roots and the greens separately (both have different storage life).
The greens, if wrapped in plastic, will last in your fridge crisper for a week. Apart from refrigeration, freezing turnips also increase their storage life.
For freezing, you need to:
- Peel the turnips
- Cube and blanch them
- Give them a cold water bath
- Dry out the moisture
- Pack them in zip lock bags and freeze
Interesting Fact: Frozen turnips will stay edible for at least ten months.
Radishes, in contrast to turnips, are more tricky to store. To keep a radish intact in your fridge crisper, it's better to cover it in a wet towel and then wrap it in a plastic bag. This way, the radish will not lose its moisture and will not turn into woody radish. You can have your radishes crisp and delicious for over a week with this storage method.
Radish greens can stay good in the crisper for two to three days.
Like turnips, radishes too can stay frozen. However, expect them to lose their intense flavor by using the above-stated freezing method.
Turnips are a great source of fiber. You can eat them raw to utilize their no-fat, low carb, high micronutrient profile.
The vegetable supplies 191 mg of potassium and is an excellent source of vitamin E and vitamin C. You can have a hundred grams of turnip to get 35% of your daily vitamin C supply.
In short, it is one of the healthiest root vegetables to consume.
In comparison to turnips, radishes are more packed with potassium. You can have 233 mg of potassium by eating a hundred-gram serving of radish. The low-fat, low carb, high micronutrient profile of radish shines a bit more.
You are only getting 1.9 grams of fat compared to 3.8 grams of turnip fats from a hundred-gram serving.
Both the vegetables are low in fats and have high fiber content.
Like turnips, radishes provide vitamin C to your body, but they have a lower supply than turnips—24% of the daily requirement per hundred-gram serving.
Turnips, with their impressive nutritional value, have numerous health benefits. First and foremost, you can consume them without worrying about excessive sugar or fat that disturbs your overall digestive mechanism.
The fiber helps keep your bowel in perfect working condition, and vitamins such as vitamin B can improve the body's sugar and fat consumption, protecting against cardiac issues and diabetes.
Just like turnips, radishes, too, are super healthy. You can get antioxidants and polyphenols that will help lower your blood sugar and promote your heart health by consuming radishes.
Their micronutrient-rich nutrient profile can help you maintain blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
Can you substitute a turnip for radish in a recipe?
Yes, turnip and radish have quite similar texture and flavor profiles so they can work well as a substitute for each other in various dishes.
Both vegetables blend well with other ingredients in the recipe and mostly enhance the flavor of a dish.
Ideas for using turnips
You can eat turnips either raw or cook them as you like. Either way, they don't disappoint. Be sure to check out these 25 delicious turnip recipes for ideas.
In the raw form, you can dice the white flesh and toss it into a freshly cut salad bowl.
Don't want to feel fancy? Dice a turnip, dip it in a sauce nearby and enjoy a quick munching session.
If you want to eat them cooked, boil them, bake them or fry them. You can add seasonings of your choice to get the best out of turnips. You can even make a delicious meal with the turnip greens.
Moreover, you can pickle turnips to enjoy their off-season. If you are not a pickle fan, add them to your stews, soups and curries. They will taste divine anyway.
Ideas for using radishes
Radishes, too, are versatile like turnips. The easiest way to consume them is to decorate your salad platter with sliced radish.
Not in a mood to eat raw radish? No problem.
Saute them in butter and season with some spices that add that extra kick, and enjoy the delicious vegetable.
Pickle them to preserve the goodness or make stews and soups.
These cute root vegetables with a fantastic nutrient profile deserve a constant place on your dinner plate.
Daikon is actually a radish and part of the brassicaceae family. Sometimes referred to as a Japanese radish, it has a milder taste than a red radish. You may be familiar with a watermelon radish which is a type of daikon radish.
Rutabaga belongs to the same family of radish and turnip but is a hybrid of a turnip and a cabbage.
Both turnip and radish belong to the Brassicaceae plant family, and both are root vegetables. With rich nutrient profiles, turnip and radish can have many potential health benefits.
You can expect flavor, appearance and harvesting differences between turnip and radish, but they are equally healthy and taste delicious.