Chicken soup has been fondly called Jewish Mom’s Penicillin. In Iran, the version has turnips in it which are said to have anti-viral and antibacterial properties. Growing up, I dreaded getting sick, because it meant steamed turnips, turnip soup, turnips hidden in my yogurt. And then I got married and my husband started insisting on making steamed turnips whenever one of us got sick. Well I just couldn’t stomach the steamed roots with just lemon juice on them. Yes, they’re good for you I said, but why?

So I set out to figure out why and how was the best way to consume them. I discovered that one of the most potent parts of this vegetable, is the greens. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find turnips with their greens intact in grocery stores in the U.S. So off to the farmer’s market if you want to get the full benefit of this fabulous vegetable.

My son likes to eat pieces of the cooked turnip in his chicken soup, I prefer blending them to thicken the soup, as you would a potato. While the soup is cooking, I take the time to thoroughly wash the turnip greens and chop them up. Then about 20 minutes before the soup is done, I add them with any other greens that I might be adding (usually, spinach, chard or kale.)

Turnips have one of the highest calcium contents of any veggie, add that to a rich bone broth and it packs a powerful bone building punch. In Chinese Medicine, turnips are used to increase the appetite and dispel damp – which makes sense in terms of helping with the flu. Since often the appetite is gone and there is nausea with the flu, this is a great vegetable to incorporate. They are also great for any kind of chest cold or bronchitis. In the past, turnip packs were often used topically for these conditions as well as asthma.

How I make my soup – and really you can use any variety of ingredients that sounds good to you. My basics are bone broth, turnips and their greens, beans, cilantro, ginger, tomatoes, & spinach.


  • 1 quart of Chicken Bone Broth
  • 1 cup soaked White Beans (I soak these overnight with a one inch piece of Kombu)
  • 2 diced Garlic Cloves
  • 1 can diced Tomatoes with juice (or 2 fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 small bunch Turnips with Greens
  • 2 cups chopped Spinach
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon Butter or Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Lemon juice to taste


Heat oil in a dutch oven and add garlic and lightly brown (about 2 minutes). Add broth and rinsed beans & ginger and bring to a boil. Add in chopped turnips and tomatoes. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for about one hour. Add spinach, turnip greens, salt & pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Just before serving squeeze one-two tablespoons of lemon juice into each bowl of soup and garnish with a few tablespoons of roughly chopped cilantro.

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