Turnip Plant Spotlight: Tips and Tricks to Grow and Cook for the Turnip Gardener and Eater

Your garden and kitchen guide to the turnip plant

Introductory Facts and Trivia

Turnips are root vegetables, and they are usually white-skinned with a red-green tint. Smaller turnips are used for humans to eat, and the larger turnips are used to feed livestock. While the root is more commonly eaten, the leaves can also be eaten, and are sometimes used as a side-dish in the southeastern United States. Based on how long it is grown, the size will vary. It is not the most flavorful vegetable in the world, but they go great with salads and have a function that is quite similar to radishes. It is believed to have originated in Northern Europe and domesticated during Roman times. Wild turnips and its relatives have been traced back to Europe and West Asia.

Grow Your Own

Turnips can be planted in a variety of ways, but in general, it is a cool-weather plant, and it is therefore a good idea to plant turnip seeds in and around February. Use loose soil and plant them when the sun is completely out. Provided that the soil has a good amount of age compost, the turnips will be able to healthily grow. While they can stand cold temperatures below 40 degrees, it could be affected negatively from being in 30 degree weather for extended periods of time.

Be sure to fertilize properly, as the wrong type of fertilization can affect the turnip crop in the incorrect way. Too much nitrogen will causes crooked roots. Also keep in mind that turnips are sensitive to boron deficiency, which can create brown discolored tissue inside, known as “brown heart.” Usually, irrigation waters have enough boron for turnips, so hopefully this should not be an issue.

If the taste is too strong or too bitter, it means that the turnip has not been properly cultivated. Be sure to water them consistently, as this will create the best taste. If the soil is dry, then the bitter taste will be prevalent in the crop. An important point to note is that they should never be eaten when they are too big or too old, as they no longer taste the right way after too long.

Turnip greens do not need to be matured in order to harvest. If the turnips are kept left in the ground for too long, they will become woody and develop a bitter taste.

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Cooking Tips

As stated before, turnips are not the most flavorful vegetable in the world. However, that does not mean that it cannot be used well as a supplementary ingredient. During breakfast, it goes great with potatoes, carrots and other bulbs and roots. A great recipe to try is the Radish and Turnip Hash with Fried Eggs, which was recommended by the Kitchn. Adding the turnip to the radish hash will be a great compliment to the eggs, which always goes well with flavorful vegetables. Make this in the morning, and you might even be satisfied until dinner time!

Nutrition and Health Benefits

The many nutritional values that turnips have are very beneficial to the human body. Turnips have been shown to help with lowering blood pressure because of the potassium that it provides. It also helps with weight loss and digestion due to its high fiber content and low calories. Along with this, turnips can prevent constipation.

It has also been thought to reduce the risk of certain cancers such as colorectal cancer. The turnip has a compound called sulforaphane, which is actually known to give the vegetables their bitter taste. However, this compound is thought to impede the effects of cancer.

Learn more about plants and what to grow in your area with the Giving Garden app. Giving Garden helps you grow, share and eat food locally. Available on iOS, Android and the web.  Find your local farmers market, grow your own food and share food to strengthen your local food system. If you have extra produce, we encourage you to post it on our mobile apps and let your friends and neighbors know. Let’s combat food waste together! Have suggestions on features or need assistance, email support@givinggarden.io 

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This blog post was written by Sanjay Reddy, a Biological Science and Professional Writing intern at Giving Garden. Sanjay is very passionate about plant and environmental science and is experienced in scientific research and writing for various fields. Connect with him on LinkedIn to see his current projects.

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