“Thank God for good directions…and turnip greens.”
– “Good Directions,” by Billy Currington
Welcome to Tuesday Tips! This will be a stopping place of interest for all you readers to gain some insight into what I am doing at the moment in my own outdoor world. Hopefully you will find these periodic quick tips and suggestions to be helpful tools for you to grow tall in your own outdoor knowledge and skills.
Today we’re taking on (drum roll, please)…the turnip.
You know how sometimes you just put energy out into the universe and the signals immediately bounce back to confirm that you’re on the right track? That happened to me early this week.
I had decided, in the quiet of my own private mind, to write about turnips because (number 1) that’s what I’m handling in my garden at the moment and (number 2) Tuesday Tips needs to be authentically about what I’m doing, right? I won’t lie, though. I absolutely second-guessed myself on this one. I literally thought, “Do people REALLY want to hear about turnips?” I mean, come on. Turnips are those things that your great-aunt, who you only see once a year, shows up with for Thanksgiving dinner in a blue-rimmed floral bowl, everyone peering down at them on the buffet with that utter look of uncertainty as to what to do next, someone three people behind you graciously saying, “Oh, who brought turnips? I love turnips!” I get it. Turnips confuse people.
The funny “universe signal” was that, after I had landed on the odd topic of turnips, I picked up a book on Beatrix Potter and began reading where I happened to have left off several weeks ago. The initial paragraph went…
“The cool-weather crops are ready to go in. Cabbages like the cold, along with their cousins, broccoli and cauliflower, and Beatrix plants all three. Turnip seed can be planted. After they germinate and grow on for a few weeks, when she has time, Beatrix “single[s] the turnips,” pulling out the extras to give each seedling its own space, room for their roots to fill out.”
Well, that pretty much sealed the deal. I figured I was meant to talk turnips. I mean, seriously? What are the chances I would think about turnips and then immediately read about turnips??? (If you’ve been paying attention to this blog since the beginning, yes…this is the SAME Beatrix Potter book that I mentioned back in my October post on mushrooms…and, yes…I am the SLOWEST reader on the planet.) I digress.
So, turnips it is! And here are my glorious tips…
Here in North Texas we have two short growing seasons instead of one long season, like you might have in, say, Indiana. For the fall, we plant our turnip seed from about Valentine’s Day through about the second week in March. Unlike Beatrix, though, I don’t usually “single” my turnips as seedlings. “Singling” simply means to thin, so that each plant has full room for the root to bulb out. I just really don’t need that many turnips. Turnips go a long way, you know! You can typically get two rounds of greens here before the plant is completely done. So I sow a bunch of turnip seed and let all of the plants come up until the greens are a nice medium size. Then I give the greens a haircut, as I call it, and use the first cutting to cook with collards and mustard and even Swiss chard.
When you give the haircut, here is where the tip on “singling” comes in. Invariably, there will be turnips scattered throughout, often on the edges, that are beginning to bulb. When I see those, I pull entire plants out that are surrounding them so that those roots have more room. That then leaves a bunch of tight plants still left to produce another round of greens, but also, now, a solid selection of singled plants that will form nice, healthy roots.
The haircut and thin happened in my garden on April 22. Here we are today, roughly three weeks later, and I have harvested the full grown turnips and a second round of greens!
So, what do I do with my turnips??? Well, I cook the second round of greens just as I did before, and turnip roots actually make a great thickening agent for soups, if you don’t like them prepared other ways. I have cooked and puréed them and then added some of the mix to various soups many times. I also go ahead and harvest any little bite-sized turnips, because the outside temperatures will be getting too hot now for the plants to continue to grow well. I haven’t tried it before, but I intend to pickle those with some other small veggies. I’ll post a turnip recipe or two coming up, along with the pickling tips that I try.
If you didn’t plant turnips this spring, not to worry. File this article away for future use. In areas of the south, anyway, with the two short growing seasons, you’ll have the opportunity to plant turnip seed again for the fall between late August and the end of October. Try it this fall, and when your friends ask you all about what you’re planting, simply share your wealth of knowledge and jest, “You know, I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday.” You’ll have instantaneous garden street cred. Trust me on this one. 😉
All the best,
– All content images by Amanda J. Schulz.