Making a turnip-cauliflower casserole, from seed

by John Moretti

If there’s any vegetable that tastes better than one you’ve found in a farmer’s market, it’s one you’ve grown at home from seed. Sort of like raising children, where others see a ton of work and a final product that may leave something to be desired, you see the fruit of your labors and an infallible piece of perfectness.

Actually, this is my first time growing plants. And I have no children of my own, so take that metaphor for what it’s worth. All I know is that seven little green sprouts from the aptly named Bachelor’s Button seeds I planted a week ago have pushed their heads through the potting soil and now I feel like the parent of newborn septuplets. Maybe I’m even a green thumb in the making.

This initial success has brought on some delusions of grandeur and so now I have three other terracotta pots sitting on my sunny windowsill: turnips, chives and cauliflower.

I chose these species deliberately. All of them are reasonably quick to germinate, about a week or two. They are supposed to do well in cooler climates and can be planted in Vermont from late April to early May, safely, as this is a warmer spring than usual. The timing works well. Not to mention, the back of the chive package clearly states that they are “one of the best herbs to grow on a sunny windowsill,” and I do own two of those.

Just add water. And soil, and sun, and love.

More importantly, they seem pretty easy. Chives are a perennial, so this coddling of seeds is a one-time deal, and will provide for many harvests to come. The turnips shouldn’t require too much thinking, either. If it grows well in Canada and Ireland, it grows well in Vermont.

Cauliflower could be the problem child. This is a flower that likes cooler temperatures: preferably in the 60s Fahrenheit, and it takes 65-70 days from planting to harvest. That is to say, these are going in at the end of April/beginning of May, and it’s hard to say what any given June will have in store for northern Vermont. While the first half should have temperatures in the 60s, it’s mostly high 70s moving into July.

The next challenge is what to do with them once they’re mature. I’ve seen lots of recipes forcauliflower puree, and even more recipes for curried cauliflower, but since I will have put hours of care into these little creations, the last thing I want to do is smash them up or drown their fresh taste in a soup or curry. So I looked around for a dinner that includes all of these ingredients and keeps their form and taste more or less intact.

I came across this recipe for turnip-potato bake on Design My Meals. It passes the nutrition test and is very low in calories, and I once I substitute in the cauliflower for potato it becomes even more so.

Recipe for turnip-cauliflower bake with chives: 

2 hours

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups chives

5 garlic cloves, sliced

1 1/2 pounds turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 1/2 pounds cauliflower, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

vegetable cooking spray

1 cup low-fat sour cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 (10 1/2-ounce) cans low-salt chicken broth

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, lightly toasted

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chives and garlic; sauté 20 minutes or until deep golden, stirring frequently.

Layer turnip slices, chive mixture, and the cauliflower pieces in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine the sour cream, salt, pepper, thyme, and broth in a 1-quart glass measure, and stir well. Microwave at high for 5 minutes or until hot. Pour over the vegetables. Cover and bake at 425° for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle breadcrumbs over casserole. Bake, uncovered, 1 hour or until the vegetables are tender.

John Moretti writes for, an online meal planning service that taps into thousands of healthy recipes for farmers market produce, and allows you to see how personalized nutritional values change for each recipe.

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