Growing Yellow Turnips
Botanical Names: Brassica rapa, Brassica napobrassica
Though the earliest turnips (Brassica rapa) mentioned by ancient writers were white, around the early 1500s a yellow-fleshed variety was grown, thought to be a cross between regular turnips and the yellow fleshed rutabaga (Brassica napobrassica), which is commonly called Swedish turnip or yellow turnip.
Yellow turnips are easy vegetables to grow, taking only a few weeks from sowing seed to harvesting their white roots and tender leaves, called greens. Loaded with vitamins and nutrients including high levels of iron, calcium, and thiamine, both young roots and leaves can be eaten raw, while older parts are boiled, roasted, mashed, or combined with other vegetables in stews.
Yellow Turnip Varieties
Amber Globe, sometimes called Yellow Globe, has been popular for over a hundred and fifty years. Introduced into England as the Yellow Dutch turnip, and popular in Scotland and North America for its sheer hardiness, it’s great for planting in the fall to keep hungry gardeners going all winter.
Golden Ball is another heirloom turnip with yellow flesh similar to Golden Globe, both having sweet, mild flavor and easily paired in soups and mashes with carrots and other root vegetables. Gilfeather has white and green skin and pale yellow or cream-colored flesh that tastes similar to mild rutabaga.
Jaune Boule d’Or is a French heirloom turnip sometimes listed as Golden Ball, with deep golden yellow flesh and a yellow skin. It is smooth enough to mash, and sweet almost like a rutabaga. It is fast maturing, making it great for both spring and fall planting.
Popular yellow-fleshed rutabaga varieties include American Purple Top, Altasweet, and Laurentian, with purple skins over the top half of the globe shaped root, and add rich flavor to soups and stews.
How to Grow Yellow Turnips
Yellow turnips, like others, tend to get woody and bitter in hot weather, and are best 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. Fall-planted turnips often taste sweeter after a light frost.
Plant turnip seed shallow in moist, fertile soil and full sun. Rake the seed bed lightly 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.
Harvest young plants for greens when plants get six inches or more high, thinning crowded plants to leave four or five inches between plants for larger roots. Greens lose quality and flavor quickly, so store no more than three or four days in sealed bags in the refrigerator; keep small roots for two or three weeks in the refrigerator, and larger, mature roots for up to several months in a cool, moist dark area, checking often for decay or spoilage.