.

Ode to the Turnip

Oh, turnip! You’re a vegetable maligned,
suggestive of a drunk’s empurpled nose.
Baked, or boiled, or steamed, on you I’ve dined,
then revelled in a peaceful night’s repose.
Your sweet and nutty earthiness when cooked
__belies a dull repute—
__though you’re the favourite root
on which my taste buds stubbornly are hooked.

Your calorific value makes you sound
for folk on diets tallying their carbs.
With vitamins and minerals you’re crowned
the King of Veg, despite detractors’ barbs.
Unsexy globe enduring temperate climes;
__of all crops farmers boast
__you’re more robust than most—
a bar of gold, a gem for gruelling times.

.

.

Paul A. Freeman is the author of Rumours of Ophir, a crime novel which was taught in Zimbabwean high schools and has been translated into German. In addition to having two novels, a children’s book and an 18,000-word narrative poem (Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers!) commercially published, Paul is the author of hundreds of published short stories, poems and articles.


NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.


CODEC Stories:

31 Responses

  1. Jeremiah Johnson

    Love that “drunk’s empurpled nose”

    This has the feel of a classic of culinary poesy!

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      Thanks for reading, Jeremiah.
      Originally, this was a competition entry to write about one of our humbler vegetables. Since the turnip gets a bad rep, I chose it.

      Reply
      • Cheryl Corey

        But how did you place in that contest?

      • Paul Freeman

        Alas, the competition was very stiff.

        On the positive side, the poem was a bit of an experiment and has given me more confidence in tackling nature poems that focus on a particular animal or plant.

  2. Margaret Coats

    I too enjoy simple turnips, but baked or boiled or steamed with apples they make a festive dish (even more of a “gem for gruelling times”).

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      I’ll have to try a recipe with apples now you’ve mentioned it, Margaret.

      Reply
  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    So much fun! Love the form, and the humor. “Calorific” is great!

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      Glad you enjoyed it, Cynthia. Odes are great for using a less popular or made up, or experimental form.

      Reply
  4. Mary Gardner

    Paul, your apostrophe is well-crafted, with perfect rhyme, and not a superfluous word to be found in it. You have earned my “rispetto.”

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      Thanks, Mary. Sometimes writing a poem can be frustrating, sometimes joyful and fun. This was the latter.

      Reply
      • Mary Gardner

        Another way to enjoy turnips:

        O Turnip Greens!
        We live down South
        Therefore that means
        You please our mouth.

        Though roots taste keen
        The real boss
        Is your leaves green
        With pepper sauce.

      • Paul Freeman

        Even more culinary suggestions. I’ll be able to write ‘The Turnip Cookbook’ at this rate.

        A lot of vegetables seem to have fallen out of favour once the New World veggies landed in Europe.

        It also seems that post First and Second World Wars, in Europe, we stopped treating certain vegetables as a staple, leaving the potato to take their place.

  5. Roy Eugene Peterson

    I have not thought about turnips or rutabagas in decades! I may have to find some and try them again. The vitamins they contain was the convincing factor.

    Reply
    • Monika Cooper

      Yes, thank you, Paul, for raising your poetic voice on behalf of the forgotten root vegetables.

      Reply
      • Paul Freeman

        Today the turnip, tomorrow the manglewurzle!

    • Paul Freeman

      I imagine that with the cost of living crisis, turnips and other less sexy foods that have fallen out of favour will make a comeback.

      Reply
      • Mary Gardner

        In the feedlot, unicursal*,
        Cows went to the Manglewurzel.
        We, with geometric maths
        Made some multicursal paths.
        Now the cows take several ways;
        It adds interest to their days.

        *with only one route

  6. Martin Rizley

    I have never been fond of turnips, but I am quite fond of your tribute to them. By praising the virtues of the turnip so eloquently, you have uprooted my former prejudices, and given me food for thought! After digesting what your have written, I may end up giving the maligned veggie a second chance!

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      I was not a fan of tomatoes until in my twenties when I got stranded in central Sudan with nothing to eat but tomatoes. Now I’m a fan.

      Reply
  7. Norma Pain

    A fun poem on a vegetable that tastes even better when cooked and mashed up with carrots and butter. Yum! Thank you Paul for the reminder to pick up another one.

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      You’re welcome, Norma.

      With carrots and butter! I’ll get my son on it this week – he’s the best cook in the house.

      Reply
  8. Jeff Eardley

    Lots of food for thought in your most amusing poem. Here in middle England they used to be called “Chonnocks” which is a great word. I haven’t tasted one since the 60’s and have no intention of starting now. Great stuff Paul!!!

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      Thanks for commenting, Jeff. Glad you liked the poem.

      ‘Chonnock’, ‘rutabaga’ – I’ve learned two new words for something already familiar.

      Reply
  9. Joseph S. Salemi

    A mixture of mashed turnips and mashed potatoes was once a common side dish at Thanksgiving here in the United States. The turnips added a slightly peppery flavor to the potatoes.

    During World War I, the winter of 1916-17 was called the Turnip Winter (“Steckrubenwinter”) by the Germans, because that was pretty much all that was available for civilians to eat at the time. Turnips (and the related rutabagas) were normally saved as a food for animals.

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      As always, you’ve made it a learning experience.

      I was going to mention All Quiet on the Western Front (a book more about comradeship than war) where the German soldiers have “turnip bread-lunch, turnip stew-supper, turnip cutlets and turnip salad”, while the Allies have tins of bully beef that are often the object of a raid.

      Reply
  10. C.B. Anderson

    I have grown turnips, rutabagas (sometimes called Swede turnips), and nearly everything else. I once cooked turnips following a recipe that called for caraway seed, and it was good. But it’s very easy to ruin turnips if cooked incorrectly. Some people like to slice them raw and eat them like radishes (to which they are botanically related) or dip them in something provided with a crudites board. I want to read a poem about garlic, or onions in general.

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      Thanks for the comment, CD. I chose to write about turnips because – believe it or not – they were in the news, recently. The UK Minister of the Environment was telling the British public to quit griping about austerity and, if necessary, eat turnips.

      Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  11. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Paul, I really like this beautifully crafted ode and after reading the smile-inducing wonders of the turnip in your appreciative, quirky, and educational marvel, I love the turnip even more. When I moved to Texas, I had no idea a swede was a ‘rutabaga’… and was over the moon to learn I could buy them here. A shepherd’s pie isn’t the same without diced swede and carrots. They say that everything is bigger in Texas… rutabagas are an exception. Texas rutabagas are the smallest swedes I’ve ever seen!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      It’s probably too hot in Texas to grow a proper swede. In general, all cole crops like bright sunlight along with cool weather. And that’s a tough order.

      Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      Thanks for your comment, Susan. It was indeed educational finding out more about turnips, which generally get a bad press and are off the culinary radar in most homes.

      Oh, and الف مبروك (a thousand congratulations) on your two volumes of poetry being published. Great covers and I see two of my faves, ‘Octopus’ and ‘Osprey’ are featured.

      Reply
  12. Joshua C. Frank

    Paul, I really like this—not only is it an extremely interesting choice of subject matter for a poem, but it’s also well-executed. My favorite line is, “suggestive of a drunk’s empurpled nose.”

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.