So, why don't more people consider them a "must," the way we do tomatoes? I think it's mostly because turnips are misunderstood. I mean, what do you do with the turnips once you grow them? And do they even taste good? We'll get to that, but first let's take a look at what they are and how to grow turnips in your organic garden.
Turnips, and How to Grow Them
Turnips are root vegetables, and part of the mustard family of plants. They are related to radishes, arugula, and rutabagas. They are generally harvested in the spring and fall. The entire plant is edible; the root can be eaten raw or cooked, and the greens can be eaten like any other leafy green. They are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and fiber.
Turnips are easy to grow from seed sown directly in your garden. Plant the seeds four to six inches apart in soil that is loose and well-drained. They require very little care other than regular watering to prevent the roots from getting tough and woody. Cabbage worms can be a problem, so check for signs of them often during peak season, usually late spring. Look for tell-tale holes chewed into the foliage, and scour the foliage regularly for the small green worms. Remove them when you see them by hand-picking and dropping them into a cup of soapy water. If you're seeing a large infestation, you can treat your plants with Bt to take care of the worms.
Turnips should be harvested small. They have the best, mildest flavor when they are about two inches in diameter. If left to get larger, they can become rather woody and unpleasant. The greens should be harvested young as well, a few from each plant if you want to be able to harvest the turnips later on.
How to Eat Turnips
You'll find several ideas for how to prepare turnips from the About.com Food and Cooking Guides linked below this article. It really is a useful vegetable, adaptable to a wide range of recipes.
So, when you're planning your spring or fall garden, give turnips a chance. They're pretty, they're good for you, and (best of all) they are really easy to grow.