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A member of the brassica family, turnips are a versatile root vegetable, with modern varieties in white, red, yellow and purple/white to name a few. They provide colour to side dishes and winter salads. Turnips can be cooked in any way a potato can - and even used raw as julienne strips with dips.
It’s worth noting that swedes (the larger orange/purple root veg) are also called turnips in Northern England, the Midlands, the South West and Ireland, so it’s best to be really clear about what you want to use them for. These turnips are smaller, smoother, with white or brightly coloured skin.
Modern F1 varieties are sweet and juicy, with none of the bitterness or fibrous quality previously associated with turnips. Turnips are widely grown on the continent for their leaves (turnip tops), providing an easy supply of greens for the kitchen in early spring when other crops are hard to come by. Read more
How to grow Turnips
Turnips grow best in cool, moisture-retentive soil. Early varieties, such as Purple Top Milan, mature in just 6-10 weeks, so they can be used as a catch crop or for intercropping. Sow a few seeds every couple of weeks from March to July/August for a constant harvest.
Sow thinly, 1.5cm/0.5in deep, with spacing between rows 15-40cm/6-16in apart, depending on whether they will be cropped as golf-ball-sized baby veg or as maincrops. Thin out to 15cm/6in apart if being picked young.
To grow for turnip tops, sow thinly in August or September, in rows 15cm/6in apart. Harvest in March-April and several cuts can be made. Turnips are best eaten young for the best texture and flavour - drought affects them badly, making the roots small and woody. Show less