Botanical Names: Brassica rapa
Roots and leaves of turnips (Brassica rapa) are easy to grow in nearly any part of the country, both spring and fall in many areas, as highly nutritious vegetables. The plants are easy to grow and mature fast enough to harvest within two months of sowing seed.
Turnips grow best in full sun, in moist, well-drained fertile soil, and when thinned and eaten small as they grow, leaving more room for the others to develop larger roots. Turnips thrive in cool weather, and actually get sweeter with frosts; roots get tough and bitter in hot weather, and hard freezes can kill the plants.
Turnips are harvested as leafy greens, as a mix of small turnip roots and greens, and as greens, or as larger mature roots for storage. Harvest by snipping two or three older leaves at a time from plants, and keeping the greens in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or by pulling or digging plants entirely and cutting off the leaves before storing the roots.
Unlike the smooth leaves of rutabagas, turnip leaves have tiny hairs which collect dirt, small insects, and even pesticides easily; they will need good washing both right after harvest and before cooking, with two or three changes of water between soakings.
How to Store Turnips
Gardeners in areas where hard freezes are not common can simply leave them in the ground, covered with hay or other mulch to keep the sun and rain off them. However, keep in mind that deer love browsing turnips, so harvest earlier where deer are common.
Once turnips are harvested, immediately twist or cut off the tips to keep them from pulling moisture from the roots. Rinse the greens in cool water, shake off excess moisture and store for up to four or five days in plastic food storage bags in the refrigerator.
Knowing how to store turnip roots depends on their size and maturity. Small roots can be refrigerated for two or three weeks. Large, mature roots can be sorted to remove cut or blemished ones, then kept a few at a time in the refrigerator for up to three weeks or so. Spread those to be stored longer in a single layer in a box with some damp newspaper or sawdust to keep them humid. Place the box in a cool, dark, unheated garage, basement, or root cellar, and check frequently to remove those that are losing quality.
Freeze turnip roots by washing, peeling, and cutting them into half inch cubes, then blanching in boiling water for two minutes. Chill quickly in cold water and freeze immediately in freezer bags. They should keep fine for 8 to 10 months.
Finally, the question of how do you store turnips is for folks who grow too much at one time; the best way to have crispy, sweet turnips and greens the longest, is to sow fresh seed every two or three weeks during the growing season to keep fresh new ones coming along.