Turnips aren’t tantalizing. They’re downright pedestrian and often overlooked. I’ve grown them off and on for years, just because I like the way they grow. They used to be a complete mystery to me… and not at all something I enjoyed. Now I’m starting to like them, however. A few nights ago, Rachel sauteed some sliced turnips and pork loin – delicious. Peeling helps take away the bitterness, as does growing them quickly with good moisture.
Reasons to grow turnips are multiple. Being yet another brassica (is it just me or is this like… “Brassica
Month” here at Florida Survival Gardening?), they’re quite good for you.
They’re also very easy to grow. They can be used to fatten hogs, they grow in the winter, they keep the ground covered, and they look pretty. Additionally, they store well, can be harvested over a decent amount of season, and the greens are a good vegetable all on their own. Speaking of that: some turnip varieties are grown solely for their leaves. If you’d like roots, too, make sure you didn’t buy that type of seed. The roots of the “leaf” varieties of turnips are woody and worthless.
On the down side, turnips are a bit bitter and they won’t be happy in the heat of summer. Don’t let that worry, you however – we’ve got tons of exciting summer crops we can grow here. Like cassava and snake beans! (There are plenty more I’m trying as well, including an edible variety of air potato… chaya… mountain papaya… chayote… West Indian Gherkins… anyhow, enough about that. Those are future posts. Back to turnips!)
I plant my turnips in the late fall via broadcasting them over disturbed soil. I then rake and water them in. If you’re planting a small space, just plant the seeds at a nice spacing. I prefer chucking them, of course, but you may have other, more neurotic, preferences. They come up in a week or so and grow rapidly. I tend to be able to pull my first turnips in perhaps two months or so. The harvest doesn’t usually happen all at once. I usually get a few early monsters, followed by a stream of turnips hitting harvest size for weeks and weeks after that.
Go ahead. Plant some turnips. And if you don’t like them, feed them to your animals. Or saute them in garlic butter. That fixes everything.
(BTW, turnips get extra points for being a high-calorie winter staple. Even if they aren’t the most delicious thing in the world – they could keep you full during a crash.)
For more information on growing survival plants, check out my book Florida Survival Gardening.
Latin Name: Brassica rapa
Nitrogen Fixer: No
Exposure: Full sun
Part Used: Leaves, roots
Method of preparation: Boiled, roasted, steamed, stir-fried, pickled
Storability: Good. Leaves can be frozen, roots stored
Ease of growing: Easy
Nutrition: Very good