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University of Missouri Extension
Published: Monday, Aug. 4, 2014
David H. Trinklein, 573-882-9631
COLUMBIA, Mo. – You may not be able to squeeze blood from a turnip, but you can easily grow this tasty and nutritious vegetable.
Turnip is an ancient vegetable that’s been cultivated for thousands of years. While turnips can be found in European cuisine, David Trinklein, horticulture specialist for University of Missouri Extension, says turnips don’t often show up in American cuisine.
“Turnip is an underappreciated and under used fall crop,” said Trinklein..
It’s best to plant this versatile vegetable in the late summer so plants can mature during the cool fall weather. It takes about two months for turnips to mature, depending on the variety, Trinklein said. Fall turnips are usually sweeter and more tender than those planted in the spring.
Choose a site that gets full sun and has well-drained soil, Trinklein said. Use a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil down 12 to 15 inches. Broadcast turnip seed over your well-tilled bed and rake lightly to cover the seeds. Give turnips about an inch of water a week to keep the roots from becoming tough and bitter. Mulch heavily. Turnips don’t like to share space so keep the weeds away, he said.
Both the root and the leaves are edible. Trinklein says there are turnip varieties that are grown specifically for their leaves, but it’s possible to enjoy both the leaves and the root.
“Just take some of the outer leaves off while it’s growing,” Trinklein said. “It might result in a root that’s a little smaller, but you’re still going to have a root at harvest.”
If you grow turnips just for the greens then you don’t need to thin out the seedlings. If you want the root, thin the seedlings two to four inches apart after they’ve grown four inches high, Trinklein said.
Harvesting and Storage
This plant loves cool weather. In fact, turnips will taste sweeter if you harvest them after a light frost.
“You can harvest turnips until the ground freezes,” Trinklein said. “The later you wait, and the cooler the temperature surrounding them, the milder and more flavorful they’ll be”
Turnips can be stored for three or four months in your refrigerator, if you have enough room. Or, Trinklein says, you can build a simple and inexpensive root cellar to store all your root vegetables.
“Nearly bury a plastic trashcan at a 45-degree angle so it can shed water. Place the produce into the can, put on the lid and then cover with a cushy layer of some mulching material such as straw,” Trinklein said. “It’s a root cellar without the cellar.”
Both the root and the leaves are a nutritious addition to any diet.
“Turnip greens are an excellent source of calcium, folic acid, vitamins A, C, E and B6,” said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist for MU Extension. “The root is only 34 calories and a great source of dietary fiber.”
Today, turnips are more of a staple in the European diet. Why not find out what Americans have been missing by adding this nutritious and versatile vegetable to your home garden this season?
Roasted Root Vegetables
4 medium-sized turnips or other root vegetables such as rutabagas, beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes, etc.
2 chopped carrots
1 medium chopped onion
¼ cup canola or olive oil
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
Season with your favorite herbs or spices
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