It's prime time for fresh turnips from the garden. Photos Leslie Halleck

In The Garden: Turnip the heat.

First, let me just say that I pity the fool that didn’t spend time outside this past weekend. The weather was just about as glorious as it can be here in Dallas, especially given it’s January. While we often get a “January thaw”, with unseasonably warm sunny days, it’s still technically winter. That means root vegetables are at their peak of seasonality in our climate. If you’re a veggie gardener, it was the perfect weekend for harvesting mature turnips and radishes.

Thin turnip seedling to leave adequate room for root development. Mature turnips should be harvested when they are the size of a small apple.
Thin turnip seedling to leave adequate room for root development. Mature turnips should be harvested when they are the size of a small apple.

Turnips are one of the easiest of vegetables to grow. Simply direct seed into a sunny garden space with well-draining soil, thin seedlings as they emerge and let nature do the rest. All root vegetables will produce better in loose well-draining soil that has a fine consistency; meaning an absence of rocks or large chunks of soil. The less resistance they are up against in the soil, the nicer the root shape. Turnips can be broadcast seeded, but you’ll need to make sure to thin excess seedlings after they emerge. As with all root vegetables, they need space to spread. Seedlings should never be any closer to one another than the desired width of the mature root. With turnips, that’s about the size of a small apple. Turnips mature quickly; finishing in anywhere from 35 to 55 days depending on variety. You can direct seed a couple more crops of turnips in your garden now for spring harvest.

Halleck_turnipgreens
Turnip greens can be cooked and eaten. You’ll want to triple wash the leaves to remove all dirt and grit.  Strip out the stems and chop the leaves.

I prefer growing and eating fresh turnips, as they are so much more tender and tasty than store bought turnips. Being a gal of Louisiana lineage, I eat the turnip greens along with the roots. They’re tasty and nutritious, especially when fresh. To cook the greens, you’ll chop up some fatty bacon, ham hock (or turkey bacon) place it in 6″ of water. Bring it to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes. Then, at a simmer, slowly add the greens and let them cook for 15 minutes. When you add the greens, add a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Peel and dice your turnips. After greens have simmered 15 minutes, add the turnips and let them simmer for 20-30 minutes until tender. Young, fresh turnips will cook faster.

I don't eat pork, but I find that Turkey bacon just the job just fine.
I don’t eat pork, but I find that turkey bacon does the job just fine. Or, skip the meat and add extra herbal seasonings.

You know it’s going to get cold again. So turn up the heat on a nice pot of fresh of turnips, make some cornbread and prepared to get cozy Southern style. .

 

Comments