Trentino Cabbage Turnip
Ifirst came across the Trentino cabbage turnip in an article by Joseph Simcox of The Rare Vegetable Seed Consortium. A self-described ”botanical explorer”, Joe travels the world in search of rare and unusual fruits and vegetables, collecting and saving seeds, and discovered this particular vegetable at a rare vegetable seed exchange in northern Italy. According to Plinio Pancirolle of the regional country association for the northern Italian region of Trentino, the Naone Rosse Antica has been raised in the area for more than 2000 continuous years, a claim substantiated by historical records.
Despite the name, Plinio and his colleagues claim that the Trentino cabbage turnip, because of its flavour, texture and leaves, is not actually part of the Brassica rapa (turnip) species, but belongs to Brassica oleracea (cabbage) family instead. Botanical information in this area shows extensive crossover between brassica species with many overlapping and conflicting definitions – whichever way it goes, this is a unique and ancient vegetable that needs to be celebrated. It has a succulent texture and mild flavour that is best enjoyed raw. When I first grew this vegetable, I planted the seeds in mid-autumn. It did take some time for the swollen taproot to develop, but it became very large by early spring – about the size of a soccer ball. There are two varieties of the Trentino cabbage turnip: the red-skinned, red-leafed variety Naone Rosse Antica, and the greenskinned Naone Giallo Antica. Both have white flesh and are delicious.