By: Scott Eckert, County Extension Agent, Horticulture
My father and grandfather grew large gardens that I remember as a youngster. Not being one really for the hot or spicy vegetables they raised I could handle the bite that turnip had. Dad would slice the root into a quarter to half inch thick and put a little salt on it. Recently while at a K-State Football game I experienced homemade salsa with tiny bits of turnip mixed in. It was different but tasty!
Turnip is a cool-season vegetable that can be grown as a spring or fall crop in Kansas. Turnips are easy to grow and can be used for the root, top, or both. Rutabagas are a relative of turnips that require considerably more time to develop
Purple Top White Globe, Tokyo, and Just Right (white) are common varieties grown for
the root and top. Seven Top and Shogoin are varieties best grown for tops or greens.
Plant spring turnips in mid to late March to allow roots to develop before intense summer heat. Plant fall turnips in late July to early August. Rutabagas should be planted in mid-July. Plant seed about ½ inch deep and about 2-4 inches apart in rows at least 15 inches apart. Use a slightly deeper planting for fall crops. You can also plant turnips in a bed or wide row planting by scattering seed to produce a plant every 2-4 inches in each direction.
Turnips need regular watering during their early development to ensure emergence and rapid growth. Weeds compete with small plants and must be removed early, using care to avoid damaging young, tender, turnip plants.
Harvesting – When roots are 2-4 inches in diameter, pull and trim the tops. Store turnip roots in plastic bags in a refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Harvest the tops when they are young and tender. Over mature tops or roots will be strong flavored, and roots may be tough.