Meet the Turnip Toffs

A little salt, a little pepper and a brave new sense of adventure

By Cynthia Adams

I am a Turnip Toff. In fact, both my hubby and I are Turnip Toffs, a derisive term typically reserved for hoity-toity Brits.

We are neither to the manner born nor to the manor born.

Nonetheless, we are Turnip Toffs of a different variety. Here’s how I know for sure: We grew giddy over a bag of turnips from Farlow Farm’s CSA last spring.

What is a CSA, you ask? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. If you are a farm-born person like me, Community Supported Agriculture is an amazing concept. For a membership fee, you get a share of the farm’s locally grown produce. The farmers grow it. You pick it up — in our case, from the Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market. Located in nearby Archdale, Farlow Farms is one of a small handful of farms offering CSA memberships in the Triad area.

Never did I imagine that I would be so excited about lowly turnips.

Last spring, if not for picking up our CSA vegetables on designated Saturdays, we wouldn’t have had any plans at all. Our rendezvous with the vegetable kingdom included one-on-ones with kale, colloquies with collard greens, bonding with broccolini, sashaying with spring onions and Swiss chard, and quiet evenings with strawberries, potatoes, eggplant, squash and cucumbers.

Home from market, we got intimate with our new friends in granular detail on the tiled counter, like a CSI for a CSA.

“Which do you think — is this collards or kale?” My hubby asked, holding something green aloft.

Given my farming background I bluffed, but for all I knew it was chard. “Kale.”

“Hmmm,” he said. In the end, we’d consult the farm’s email for a positive I.D.

“What are we going to do with it?”

“I’m thinking we will make kale chips,” I peeped. “And salad.”

Mind you, I had never eaten a kale chip. But I had spent much of my pandemic free time watching what people ate on the internet.

So, we fired up a YouTube video then prepped the kale. It was a two-person job.

First, we washed it. Then we dissected it, cutting the tough kale ribs away before drying and dicing it. After anointing the rugged leaves with olive oil and sprinkling them with sea salt, into the oven they went for a good bake.

“Hmmm,” hubby said a quick 12 minutes later.

“Is that a good hmmm, or a bad hmmm,” I asked, hovering.

“Just a hmmmm. As in, it’s not a potato chip . . .”

We were amazed by how many vegetables we had never before eaten. Like bok choy, which I had only ever seen in Chinese takeout.

Once we found things we could do with this cute little vegetable, like stir frying it in garlic and ginger, we discovered that we liked it.

Score 1 for bok choy!

Summer rolled around and squash and eggplants came to visit our home. “What is that?” hubby asked suspiciously, pointing to the crockpot where squash, tomatoes and onion roiled.

“It’s ratatouille. French. You know. Like the children’s film,” I offered defensively. “Ratatouille sounds so great, doesn’t’ it?” I asked with enthusiasm I didn’t really feel. Look, I am no Ina Garten. 

He nodded with noticeably less enthusiasm.

“Looks like vegetable soup,” he said, stirring it with the large wooden spoon.

I chopped an eggplant, pointedly ignoring him, then tossed the meaty chunks into the pot.

His mouth twisted ever so slightly sideways. Ruefully.

Once sacrificed to the dish, he wasn’t wrong: the caldron of summer’s bounty looked exactly like vegetable soup.

I wilted just a little myself, reclaimed the spoon, stirred the brew energetically, then covered the pot and ordered him out of the kitchen.

That evening, ratatouille filled two fetching Seagrove pottery bowls. We were not in a Paris bistro with a baguette on the table, but it was ratatouille showtime.

“This needs salt,” I admitted, tasting.

“Maybe pepper.”

His eyes stayed fixed upon the steaming bowl.

The first spoonful passed his lips. Then another.

“Maybe France,” he added.

Then, wordlessly, he smiled, refilling our glasses with a Trader Joe’s red that I reserve for lower expectation occasions.

We sipped, slid our soup spoons into the ratatouille, slurped — and most importantly — shut up.

But Turnip Toffs being Turnip Toffs, we couldn’t help ourselves. We signed up for the CSA again this year.  OH

For more information about local participating CSAs, including NIMBY Gardens, Emmaus Farms, Pine Trough Branch Farm and Handance Farm, visit

In case you were wondering, O.Henry’s contributing editor Cynthia Adams won’t, in fact, be sharing her ratatouille recipe with the public. But she does recommend an extra pinch or three of salt. 

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