A Byte of Turnip History
Before potatoes were abundant beyond South America, turnips were everyday staples, particularly in Europe during the Middle Ages. The origins of the turnip are vague but it may have come from northeastern Europe or Asia many thousands of years ago.
In 1730 Charles "Turnip" Townshend, a British politician, imported Dutch-grown turnips. He wanted to see if his livestock could survive in good health throughout the winter on a diet of turnips. In those days it was expensive to grow and store hay all winter so most people killed their livestock in the fall. This practice left people with too much meat, all at one time. Townshend proved that with turnips, easy to grow and store, farmers could fatten cattle through the winter and slaughter only as needed.
Water chestnuts are actually roots of an aquatic plant that grows in freshwater ponds, marshes, lakes, and in slow-moving rivers and streams. These roots are commonly grown in Japan, Taiwan, China, Thailand, and sometimes in Australia.
The water chestnut, resembles a chestnut in color and shape, is also known as the Chinese water caltrop. This tuber is commonly associated with Chinese cooking, but is finding its way into other ethnic meals.
Chestnuts are actually the underground swollen tip of a tuber and stores carbohydrates for the plants growth. Unless they are kept cool they will sprout.
Water chestnuts are a good source of potassium.
If you find fresh water chestnuts, select those that are firm with no signs of wrinkling. These will need to be peeled prior to eating and cooking. Stored fresh tubers need to be wrapped tightly in a plastic bag for up to one week.
Canned, unopened water chestnuts will store indefinitely. Once opened, canned tubers will keep up to one week in a bowl of water. Be sure to change the water daily for the freshest product.
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