Turnip (Brassic rapa)
Turnips are the perfect accompaniment for hardy stews and slow braised meats in the fall when new winds blow into the field. They are hardy and frost tolerant, often getting sweeter in the cold and the greens are of course tasty, cooked up with collards or kale for nutritious side dish. A homegrower can try the uncommon culinary delight of baby turnips young, tender roots harvested at a small size and eaten whole, fresh or roasted.
Nutrients: vitamins C and B6, folate, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium.
How to Grow Turnips from Seed
Turnips are a moderately frost tolerant crop that prefers full sun, but tolerates partial shade. Plant in loose, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Provide consistent moisture for best yields.
Direct seed about 3-4 weeks before the last spring frost for early summer harvest, and in late summer for fall harvest. Sow seeds 1/2" deep with 1" between seeds and 12" between rows. Optimal soil temperature for germination is 50-75°F. Seeds will sprout in 5-17 days. Thin to 3-6" for mature plants.
Use row covers to prevent early pest damage.
Greens can be lightly harvested when large enough to eat. Roots are ready for harvest in 55-60 days. Flavor is improved by a few light frosts.
How to Save Turnip Seeds
Turnips are an insect pollinated biennial that do not flower and set seed until the following season. Leave a ½ mile between what you are growing and any other Brassica rapa to prevent crossing. This includes members of the Broccoli Raab family. Plant at least 6 different to ensure reasonable genetic diversity. After flowers have turned to seed, leave the seed pods to mature and dry on the plant for as long as possible before gathering. Once the plant material is so dry it crumbles at your touch, you can separate the seeds from the pods and winnow away the chaff.