Did you know that throughout history the turnip has been used to make jack ‘o lanterns, has replaced cabbage in coleslaw and has even been thought of as a cancer-fighting vegetable?
When cooked or smashed, a compound is released that research has shown decreases the amount of tumor growth, especially in breast cells and decreases the spread of existing cancer cells to other parts of the body. When consumed regularly, another compound is released which research shows increases the liver’s ability to detoxify carcinogens and free radicals.
Turnip greens help relieve rheumatoid arthritis, promote colon and lung health and fight against declines in mental function. They are also chock-full of more familiar nutrients such as vitamin C, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, folate and copper.
Last year, Darin Greear, a farmer in Riner, Va., not more than 20 miles from Virginia Tech, grew more than 60,000 pounds of turnips and distributed them to the hands of hungry people all over Southwest Virginia. This year he plans to put between 300,000 and 500,000 pounds of this nutritious vegetable into the same hands all over Southwest Virginia.
Everyone knows about farming. We may not know the ins and outs of farming, but we know the basic practice: A farmer grows food and sells it to make money. How he grows the food and who he sells it to are different for each farmer, but all have the same basic outcome.
What most people don’t know is almost all farmers have a little leftover crop in the fields at the end of a rotation. For some farmers, the amount of crops left might be larger than others. Mostly this is produce that was not ready to be harvested with the rest. It was likely left in the field to mature, but was not worth the farmer’s time to come back, or it was missed by a machine when the field was picked over.
Gleaning is the gathering of this produce. Groups all over the world participate in gleaning, whether for personal food procurement or for those who cannot obtain food on their own.
What Greear is doing is not quite considered gleaning by most standards, but it is of great importance. He has decided to combat a need he saw in an innovative, creative way. Instead of giving the leftover, unwanted crop of his land away to the hungry, he has decided to intentionally set aside several acres of his land in an effort to help feed his neighbors in Southwest Virginia.
And you can help. Greear has planted the crop, and now he is waiting for people like you and me to harvest acres of nutritious turnips to feed people all over the region.
More than 10,000 pounds have already been harvested and distributed, but that still leaves hundreds of thousands of pounds to get out of the ground and onto the plates of those who are hungry.
This season people who are not only hungry but are in need of food that has good nutritional value will be roasting, mashing and sauteing turnips. They will cut raw turnips and use them in coleslaw, dip them in peanut butter, hummus or just add a little salt.
You have the opportunity to make sure this happens.
Interested in making this happen? Feel free to contact me at NRVHungerRelief@gmail.com or stop by the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships office in 1660 Litton-Reaves to see us face-to-face.