Growing White Turnips

Turnips with white roots are both easy to grow and valued for their tenderness and sweetness, with some compared with apples for their lack of classic turnip tanginess.

White Turnips

White Turnips

Freshly harvested turnips for CSA distribution

Photo by: Shutterstock/Nikolay Dimitrov - ecobo

Shutterstock/Nikolay Dimitrov - ecobo

Botanical Names: Brassica rapa

White-rooted turnips (Brassica rapa) are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, taking only a few weeks from sowing seed to harvesting their sweet tasting white roots and tender greens. They are loaded with vitamins and nutrients, including high levels of iron, calcium, and thiamine. The young roots and leaves can be eaten raw, while older parts are commonly boiled, roasted, mashed, or combined with other vegetables in stews

White Turnips

The current most popular white turnip varieties include Tokyo Cross, which was celebrated as an All-America Selection winner for its exceptional easy of growth, heavy production, disease resistance, and superb flavor.

Market Express is a favorite with growers for its very early production and pure white roots, and White Knight is a later producer with a slightly flattened globe shape. Just Right is great for fall planting and has very mild roots.

One of the two outstanding Japanese varieties is Shogoin, one of the most popular of all for itstender, mild white roots which, if the plants are thinned, can get quite large, as well as for itsheavy production of sweet greens; it is often grown just for the greens alone.

The other is Hakurei, a very fast-producing white rooted variety that is almost legendary for itsmild, delightful flavor, so sweet it is often eaten raw even by children and people who are unableto tolerate any bitterness at all. It is sometimes compared with apples for its tender, sweet flavor.  

How to Grow White Turnips

Like all turnips, all-white varieties turnips grow best in cool weather, and tend to get chewy and bitter when it gets hot. They are planted in late spring when soils stay above the mid-40s, and again in the fall where seasons are long enough before a hard freeze. They often taste better after a frost.

Turnips grow best in moist, fertile soil and full sun. Sow seed lightly, and rake them so they are buried no more than a quarter inch or so deep, then water to get the seeds started. They should sprout within a week or two.  

Greens can be cut as soon as plants get six inches or more high, and thinned plants can be cooked roots and all while still very small. Leaving at least four or five inches between plants leads to larger roots. Store greens for three or four days at the most in sealed bags in the refrigerator; small roots will last a couple or three weeks in the refrigerator, but larger roots can be kept in acool, moist dark area for up to three or four months.

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