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Monday, February 28, 2011

You say rutabaga, I say turnip!

Is it weird that I have a thing for turnips? Growing up, you couldn't have paid me to eat a turnip, but in recent years, I find myself flipping excitedly through the pages of seed catalogues looking for new or heirloom turnip varieties. Actually, now that I think about it, I don't ever remember my mother serving turnips.. here in the Maritimes, if you say 'turnip', chances are that you really mean rutabaga.

It's easy to see where the confusion comes from. Both are members of the vast cabbage family and both are rounded veggies that grow beneath the earth. Yet, turnips are smaller than rutabagas and require much less time to mature. In fact, we start planting turnips in the cold frame a month or two before the last frost (late March through April) and they're ready in just 6 to 8 weeks. Rutabagas, on the other hand, take months to mature and the roots are often stored for winter meals. I rarely offer precious garden space to rutabagas - a long season crop that is cheap and widely available.

Turnips also have delicious edible foliage. When my hubby first tried them raw and straight from the garden, he declared them 'better than arugula' - high praise, indeed! Great for salads or for cooked greens.

These photos are some of my beloved Hakurei turnips that mature in just 38 days! The pure white roots are smooth, crisp and quite sweet. We start pulling them when they're an inch across (picking every 2nd one to thin the remainder) and the rest are pulled when needed until they're 2 inches across.

In my seed obsession this year, I've ordered about a half dozen new types of turnips to try.. not sure where they'll go, but they're easy to intercrop with other slower-growing brassicas like broccoli or cabbage. Plus, they're so quick growing, we can succession plant them from late winter to late summer..

Happy Gardening!


5 comments:

  1. As a fellow lover of turnips I am very excited to hear how all your varieties do. We have lots of luck with Purple Top and Gold Ball, we tried Gilfeather but it did not form much of a rounded root for us. I plant most of mine in late August or early September for a late fall harvest...if I plant earlier the root maggots get at them. Although, I have never tried a really early spring planting and might just have to give that a try this spring.

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  2. And we say 'NEEP' in Scotland. In England they say Swede, because they are 'Swedish Turnip'. I'm told that in Sweden they are called 'kalrot' (cabbage root) although 'rutabaga' comes from a dialect word for 'ram's root'. They are still used to feed sheep in winter. They let the sheep have access to the field where they are growing - a bit at a time. It's rare to find 'ordinary' turnip in Scotland, but neeps are everywhere. They even had them at a pet shop I visited recently. I wasn't sure what pet animal they were for!

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  3. Thanks for your comments Mr. H and Mal.. great suggestions of other varieties for me to try Mr. H.. like I needed any more seed suggestions!! :)

    Mal, I'd heard of 'neeps' before, but wasn't sure if they were turnips or rutabagas.. very interesting!

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  4. Hard and crunchy and a little sweet,rutabagas are great to snack on raw(although hard to cut) and probably really good for you as well.

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  5. Thank you for commenting on my blog. I see we both have a seed obsession and I too have bought many varieties of turnip after trying them last year and discovered I like them!

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Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome your tips, questions, thoughts and ideas (and suggestions for new veggies to grow!)