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Lots of root vegetables get high praise. Several friends celebrate the potato, in all the various and many forms we eat it, as a favorite food. Carrots receive mad love for being good for our eyes. Sweet potatoes make it on just about every holiday dinner table and took the “fries” world by storm a decade or more ago. Even beets are collecting high fives, something about serious nutritional benefits.

All this is to say that the lowly little turnip might want some love, too. The most recognition they get is probably through turnip greens, not even the root vegetable itself! When turnip roots do make it to the table, it’s often via some deception, a means of replacing white potatoes with a less potato-y/carb-y option.

But, turnips are legitimately good, and the fact of the matter is that it’s a two-crops-in-one vegetable: delicious turnip greens and the turnip roots. They can be grown at least twice a year in most places in the US, and they are one of the easier things to grow. Plus, they’ll store well for much of the winter, providing fresh veggies when we need them most.

Source: Dr Shaunna/Youtube

The Nutrition of Turnips

It’s always good to be aware of the nutritional value of the things we grow. Of course, the truth of it is that fresh, organic vegetables are rarely a bad thing. Turnips have a good nutritional profile, and they can be consumed either cooked, the more common choice, or raw.

Turnips are a very good source of dietary fiber. The roots have a significant amount of vitamin C, and they have tips and tucks of other micronutrients like folate, phosphorus, and calcium. The leaves are even healthier, with higher amounts of all the above nutrients as well as vitamin K and vitamin A.

Source: Toward Garden/Youtube

Growing Turnips at Home

Turnips are grown both for human consumption, typically the smaller varieties, and as animal feed. In permaculture, the larger types are often used in cover crop mixes to help with loosening compacted ground. Like radishes, another oft-ignored root crop, turnips are a quick turnaround and a good companion plant for things like carrots and parsnips, which grow much slower and more narrowly down.

Turnips do best when planted at the shoulder seasons, a spring sowing that matures in early summer and a late summer planting that can be harvested (and stored) in the fall. They are one of the first vegetables we can plant, and they are also one of the last vegetables we can plant. The beauty of that is that we get freshly pulled turnips when less garden produce is available.

They’ll do best in a mostly sunny space, with a little tolerance for shade, and the ideal soil will be slightly acidic, like a good compost. Turnips should be planted about a half-inch deep, maybe 10-20 seeds per square foot to be thinned to four inches apart.

Turnips, like other brassicas, will need a good supply of water (about an inch a week), and like other root vegetables, a weed-free growing area will make for better crops as they have more room to develop. Adding a layer of compost a couple of weeks before sowing the seeds is a good idea, and mulching the bed once they’ve popped will help maintain adequate moisture and keep weeds at bay.

Source: Gardening With Tracy/Youtube

Harvesting and Storing Turnips

Turnips can take as little as 30 days to mature, with different times needed for different varieties. For most types, the tastiest turnips are about the size of golf balls, though many selections will grow much larger. Smaller leaves can work well in salads as they are tender, and the mature leaves work better cooked. The larger the leaf and the larger the root, the more likely the turnips will turn somewhat bitter. Like many crops, both the leaves and roots are a bit sweeter after a frost.

Turnip greens will not store for very long, so it’s best to plan on eating them within a couple of days after harvesting, if not right away. To store them, they should be washed well and put in a sealed container to be refrigerated. The roots, particularly the tougher autumn roots, will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or they can be stored for months in a root cellar.

For long-term storage, turnips will keep longer if they are put into a container in single layers with buffers of straw between the layers. Old food-grade buckets, like those available from supermarket bakeries, are great for doing this.

Turnips for Dinner

Turnips are versatile, even more so than potatoes. They can be roasted, sautéed, fried, tossed into stews, mashed, and more. They can be sliced thinly and tossed into salads as well. They warrant a place in the garden and a place on the menu.

Check out these recipes you can make at home with turnips!

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