Turnips are rich in folic acid, iron, vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium. Antioxidants like those in turnips protect against heart disease and cancer. Nutritional info
The greens themselves are also edible and are an excellent addition to spring and fall salads. We also like our turnips steamed or grilled. This brings out the starches of the root, greatly reducing any bitterness.
Turnips are the most ancient of roots, haling from the Far East (Afghanistan/Mediterranean basin area). They were first domesticated in 15th century BC in India. Turnips were used as livestock feed, growing to 30-40 pounds in the 1500’s in Canada. By the 1700‘s, turnips were the most important root crop for both people and cattle. The purple top turnips we are familiar with today also arose in the 1700’s.
Turnips are biennials that have to overwinter to flower and produce seeds. The seed stalks are quite tall, reaching 3 feet in height. If you want to allow your turnips to flower and save seed, staking is needed.
Turnips can be sown in spring or fall. The sweetest and largest roots will be from fall sown. Sow when the daffodils are in full bloom in spring and when goldenrod blooms in fall.
Turnips are easy to grow and prefer sandy, loose soil. The flavor is best when grown in poor soil. Maintain evenly moist soil; dry soil will produce woody cores. Plant 1/2” deep and thin to 4” apart. Space 18” from next row of crops.
Harvest leaves when they are 4-6” high. Only pick a third of the leaves if you are planning on also eating the root. Roots should be pulled when 3” in diameter; they are the sweetest after a frost. When pulled, you can also add the greens to your salad.
For any extras that I don't eat fresh from the garden, I like to blanch and freeze the rest. I add turnips to a mix of other frozen garden veggies for steamed veggies. A great way to preserve your garden bounty and get a super nutritious side dish. For more on blanching, Freezing the extras for winter