You Can’t Get Blood From a Turnip

Text: “You can’t get blood from a turnip” (Proverb/folk speech)


K is my sisters fiance, they’ve been together for about 9 years so he is pretty much a part of the family already. He lives in Salem, Virginia and grew up right by Salem, in Roanoke County. He often heard this piece from his father or grandfather when asking for money from them as a child.

K- “You can’t get blood from a turnip, you know like the vegetable. My father says this all the time really, I’ve heard it all my childhood and when I was little I never understood what it meant”

Interviewer- What does it mean?

K- “It means you can’t get any money out of someone who doesn’t have any (begins laughing) I would ask my dad for money when I was little and he would say ‘you can’t get blood from a turnip son’…yeah that was always pretty funny”


The proverb “You can’t get blood from a turnip” is an expression used to convey the idea that someone cant extract something valuable or useful from a source that lacks that particular quality or substance. In this case, the metaphorical image is of trying to obtain blood, which is often associated with vitality or essential components, from a turnip, which is a root vegetable with no blood or valuable content. In this particular setting the person was comparing the blood to money and the turnip, their father/his wallet. The saying is often used to emphasize the futility of expecting more than what is realistically possible from a given situation, person, or resource. It suggests that one should not demand or expect something that is simply not present or available. It encourages a practical and realistic approach to expectations and outcomes.