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The best thing about turnips is that they are two crops in one. Both the roots and the tops are tasty and nutritious, so you're doubling the return from your garden space. We particularly love turnips when they are golf ball size and so sweet and mild that you'd barely call their flavor a 'turnip taste'. Leave a half inch of the greens on the roots, then cook them in a tightly covered skillet or saucepan over low to medium heat with butter: nothing else! Turnips contain so much moisture when young that they'll steam in their own juices. Shake the pan from time to time to keep them from sticking: it's OK if they get slightly golden and caramelized. Cook for just a few minutes, while they still have a bit of crunch.
Tender young turnip greens are delicious chopped coarsely, steamed, then dressed with butter or oil. Or, you can use them as a bed on which to set pork chops or sausages, letting the meat juices ooze down to flavor the greens.
It's always enlightening to find out where our common vegetables hail from. For example, the fact that turnips are native to Siberia and other reaches of the far north tells you something important about their needs. Plant them
as early as possible in spring to get a few quick crops in before summer's heat, then sow them in cold frames for winter munching. The cold just makes them crisper and sweeter. Even the greens are tastier when the weather is chilly.
Right Time, Right Place
Nothing beats a fall crop of tender baby turnips, sweetened by crisp cool nights. The best way to grow them is to plant in a bed where you have just pulled out your summer onions. During the first half of the twentieth century, the University of Rhode Island did extensive studies on crop rotations such as this one. Among the findings: proof that turnips and other brassicas do best following an onion crop.
They may be the Plain Jane of the kitchen garden, but homegrown turnips are wonderful when enjoyed small, 2" to 3" maximum. Sow in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked in an area which has not been freshly manured. Harvest by gently pulling out by the bottoms of the greens. Turnips are great in their raw state - munched whole, sliced or grated in salads, or steamed and dressed with butter. Turnip greens are delicious too!
Average seed life: 4 years
#4400 De Milan Rouge Turnips: 35 days|
Vigorous and quick-growing, this heirloom has been beloved in France for a long time - it’s hard to improve on perfection. The little turnips have rose-colored shoulders and pure white bottoms and are meant for picking small. At that point, the taste is mouth-watering and sweet with a hint of musk. Make multiple sowings of De Milan Rouge, every couple of weeks in the spring, then again in late summer for a fall harvest. Keep your eye on these pretty little roots and harvest baby size. In France, it is traditional to serve baby turnips along with baby peas and fresh mint, as an accompaniment to spring lamb. (OP.)
Packet of 750 Seeds / $3.25
#4420 White Lady Turnips: 30-35 days|
Finally, we can grow our own white turnips after only being able to purchase them once a year on the way home from the Welfleet Oyster Festival at a Route 6 farm stand. This beautiful, semi-round, 2½” turnip has smooth, milk-white skin and mild and delicious flesh. Somewhat heat- and bolt-resistant, vigorous White Lady has an erect growing pattern with tender, tasty greens. She is best grown in early spring or late summer but can grow through the summer if you prefer smaller turnips. (F1.)
Packet of 750 Seeds / $3.55
#4430 Jaune Boule d'Or Turnips: 45-60 days|
Imported from France where even the turnips are beautiful, the ‘Yellow Golden Ball” heirloom is a smooth, golden-yellow skinned knockout. Harvest when the bulbs are just 3” to 4” across when its sweet, mild creamy-white flesh is at its best.
Packet of 750 Seeds / $3.45