EasyPeasy / Entree / Gluten Free / Sides/Sauces / Technique / Vegan

Navy Beans, Hakurei Turnips & Greens

Beans, turnips and greens, for those days when you want to skip the meat, this is a perfect meal. If you are wondering what Hakurei is, it is the bunch of little white radish looking things held together with a gum band that came in your CSA box, or was at the Farmer’s Market. They are more of a baby turnip than a radish. Best of all they do not need to be cooked. Sweet and tender, Japanese Hakurei are available through the early part of the summer, but you might be lucky and find a farm that grows them for a bit longer. Save the leaves, that is what makes the pesto in this dish.

Beans – Navy Beans seemed like a nice balance of flavor for the tiny turnips. Navy Beans have a creamy taste, hold their shape when cooked, and would not compete for overpowering the sweetness of the Hakurei. Skip strongly flavored beans like Kidney. Loaded with protein and all plant based, this dish will even please the most discerning Vegan. Served over salad for a main course, it is hearty and filling, or as a side dish it is complementary to fish, chicken, or halloumi.

History of Hakurei

According to the World Farmer’s website, the sweet, white turnips were developed in the 1950’s to help solve food shortages in Japan. They are also referred to as Tokyo Turnips. Sliced, sautéed, or roasted, they are a versatile vegetable. It is rare to find them anywhere but a Farmer’s Market, as they are not as mainstream yet as one would think.


Pesto is not just for Basil, but I am sure I am repeating myself. Turnip greens and radish greens (other than the ones that have the little spiky things) can easily be blended in a food processor with EVOO, salt and pepper. I make pesto with all the herbs that come in our CSA basket. That way they last longer, are readily available and can be added to sauces, meats, fish, pasta, you name it. So back to the Turnip and radish greens. Not all turnip greens make good pesto. In fact, the only pesto from turnip greens that I would make would be from the ones in this recipe. The big turnips are great for eating the root, but skip the leaves; they are best left to the compost pile. Radish leaves will give a peppery bite, similar to the radish at the base of the leaves.

Pesto is simply a blend of the greens, be it leaves or herbs, EVOO and salt and pepper. Cheese and pine nuts, or walnuts, or pretty much any nut other than maybe peanuts (I know, legume, not nut). Blend into a smooth paste and store in the fridge for about 7-10 days. I find it is a great way to prolong a bunch of herbs that otherwise might not get used before going bad.

Olive Oil vs EVOO

There is a wide range of flavor and viscosity between olive oils. Regular Olive Oil tends to come from second pressings and may be heated to extract more oil from the olive. Extra Virgin is from the first pressing, has the most flavor and it is imperative to look for cold pressed on the label. Once upon a time all olive oil was all olive oil. Over the past years there have been situations where olive oils have either not been entirely made from olive oil and have been adulterated with other oils or lesser grades of olive oil. If you are buying better, more expensive Extra Virgin Olive Oils, chances are that you are getting real 100% olive oil.

Varying flavor strengths of EVOO

Like wine, olive oils can have a wide range of flavors. Some are mild and fruity, others a bit nutty, some peppery and some might have a bitter bite. My advice is invest in several bottles of good EVOO, try them and see what you like. These are oils that you will use for flavoring, not for sautéing onions in. For sautéing, I suggest a good olive oil, but not one that will set you back a paycheck. I have a variety of EVOO on hand that are used for salad dressings to finishing touches in a soup. If you have ever had Pasta Fagioli, it is finished with a drizzle of EVOO. This is the type of dish I would use a really good one for, because it is an integral flavoring for the dish.

Some other recipes to try…


Navy Beans, Hakurei Turnips & Greens


  • 16oz/500g, cooked Navy Beans (either canned or soaked and cooked)
  • 1 bunch Hakurei Turnip leaves
  • 5-7 Hakurei Turnips
  • 6 fl oz/ EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste



Dried Beans - Prepare the beans - if cooking do this a day or several hours ahead of time


Canned beans, drain and rinse.


Clean and trim turnips. Cut leaves from roots.


Make pesto - blend turnip leaves, EVOO, salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth (add more EVOO if necessary).


Slice turnips.


Place beans on a platter, top with the pesto, arrange slices of turnips.


Either do on a serving dish or on individual plates.


Radishes may be substituted for the turnips.

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