Celebrate February! African American History Month: Turnip Greens


-By Hertha J. Woodruff, A.M.L.S., M.A.

It’s February!  Happy African American History Month!   Turnip greens play a role in African American History and still remain as a popular, vegetable, side dish for African Americans and Southerners.  In history, turnip greens, the tops of turnips, were actually given to the slaves by their slave masters as discarded food.  The slave masters kept the turnips for themselves.  The slaves boiled turnip greens with pig feet or ham hocks, additional discarded foods, to add flavor.  The slave masters may not have realized that the turnip greens had a higher level of nutrients than the turnips, which they preferred.  In the long run, turnip greens may have been a boost that enriched the health of slaves.  It was my mother’s favorite food which may have helped her live to the ripe age of 91 even though she had some health concerns.

Turnip greens are high in Vitamins A and C, have some Vitamin B6, folate, loads of calcium, are good source of fiber, often more fiber than breakfast cereals, and contain cancer fighting elements.  Turnip greens are a member of the cruciferous family.  They also possess some protein.

Turnip Greens with Jalapeño Pepper


1 ½ boxes, 48 ounces, of low-fat and low salt chicken broth

2 large bunches of fresh turnip greens, washed and chopped

1/3 bunch of mustard greens (optional)

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

½ fresh jalapeño pepper

3 small turnips peeled and sliced horizontally

Sea salt and pepper



  1. Heat chicken broth in a large pot.
  2. Add onions and garlic.
  3. Add turnip greens and mustard greens, if you desire to add mustard greens.  The greens will shrink tremendously as they cook.
  4. Add jalapeño pepper.
  5. Turn heat down to simmer for 30 minutes on medium to low heat.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add turnips on top at final 10 minutes of cooking, until soft.
  8. Add a little salt to turnips.
  9. Remove jalapeño pepper before serving.
  10. Yield: 8+ servings

To better health!  Enjoy!


1. WHFoods: Turnip Greens

2. What is SOUL FOOD?

3. Prevention Magazine’s Complete Nutrition Reference Handbook 1992.


To read about my journey to becoming a vegan, please go here: Hertha Woodruff’s Vegan Journey  

To view the rest of my posts, please visit the Health & Nutrition category page of our blog: Click Here

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