The most common type of turnip is mostly white-skinned apart from the upper 1–6 centimetres (0.39–2.36 in), which protrude above the ground and are purple or red or greenish where the sun has hit. This above-ground part develops from stem tissue, but is fused with the root. The interior flesh is entirely white. The root is roughly globular, from 5–20 centimetres (2.0–7.9 in) in diameter, and lacks side roots. Underneath, the taproot (the normal root below the swollen storage root) is thin and 10 centimetres (3.9 in) or more in length; it is trimmed off before the vegetable is sold. The leaves grow directly from the above-ground shoulder of the root, with little or no visible crown or neck (as found in rutabagas).
Turnip leaves are sometimes eaten as "turnip greens" ("turnip tops" in the UK), and they resemble mustard greens (to which they are closely related) in flavor. Turnip greens are a common side dish in southeastern U.S. cooking, primarily during late fall and winter. Smaller leaves are preferred, but the bitter taste of larger leaves can be reduced by pouring off the water from the initial boiling and replacing it with fresh water. Varieties of turnip grown specifically for their leaves resemble mustard greens and have small or no storage roots. These include rapini (broccoli rabe), bok choy, and Chinese cabbage. Similar to raw cabbage or radish, turnip leaves and roots have a pungent flavor that becomes milder after cooking.
Turnip roots weigh up to 1 kilogram (2.2 lb), although they are usually harvested when smaller. Size is partly a function of variety and partly a function of the length of time the turnip has grown. Most very small turnips (also called baby turnips) are specialty varieties. These are only available when freshly harvested and do not keep well. Most baby turnips can be eaten whole, including their leaves. Baby turnips are sold in yellow-, orange-, and red-fleshed varieties, as well as white-fleshed. Their flavor is mild, so they can be eaten raw in salads like radishes and other vegetables.
The turnip's root is high in vitamin C. The green leaves of the turnip top ("turnip greens") are a good source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and calcium. Turnip greens are also high in lutein (8.5 mg / 100 g).