Turnips from start to finish.
Right after the New Year begins, we draw our garden plan. We have last year's plan in front of us so we can rotate crops. If we plant turnips in the same row they grew in last year, they could become easy targets for root maggots, which overwinter in the soil. Root maggots tunnel into the roots, leaving an unappetizing brownish trail. The best defense against this pest is to not plant any member of the cabbage family (including radishes), in the row for three years.
In a row marked for fall turnips, we plant green peas or bush beans, which will finish bearing by July 4 in Low-Country South Carolina. These legumes help add nitrogen to the soil.
After we remove the early crop, we leave that area fallow for several weeks. In early August, we mow the weeds that have grown up, then go over the row with the rotary tiller. This loosens the soil and mixes in the green matter so it can rot.
In late August, we till the soil again, and prepare furrows. The USDA recommends about a pound of 10-20-10 fertilizer for a 50-foot row of turnips. Southerners grow turnips for the greens as well as for the roots, and USDA recommends 10-10-10 for greens. An organic alternative is to use two parts each of cottonseed meal and granite dust, and one part colloidal phosphate.
One ounce of seed will plant 50 feet of row, and the yield can be up to 50 pounds each of roots and greens. That is a very good return on the investment!
I begin by planting a pinch of Tokyo Cross, which will mature small, sweet, crisp roots in a month. I try to sow the seeds thinly, because roots won't develop well if they are crowded in the row. Further along the same row, I plant a pinch each of Purple Top, White Egg, and Just Right, all of which need 60 days or more to mature. While we enjoy the first of the Tokyo Cross roots, I can thin the other varieties to add a few more greens to the cookpot. By the time we finish the Tokyo Cross, the other varieties are producing golf-ball size roots.
Some years, either Purple Top or White Egg does not do well. Only the garden genie knows why this happens, but anticipating the possibility, I grow both varieties each year. Just Right will stand more temperature stress, and produce record-size roots. I also plant rutabagas, which need 90 days to mature.
When seedlings emerge, I work them gently with a hoe to keep the soil loose and encourage oxygen to reach the roots. I use a soaker hose on days we get no afternoon shower. This helps keep the soil cool and moist through the warm days of September.
As seedlings grow, I start thinning--removing plants that seem crowded. At this stage, the mild flavored greens add variety to the salad bowl. As roots begin to form, I cook them whole with the greens. At this stage, they don't need peeling--just scrub off the dirt. I continue to pull young plants until they stand five or six inches apart in the row.
During warm weather, flea beetles and aphids come to munch. I'd rather have tiny holes in the leaves than to douse them with poison. If infestations are severe, I dust with Rotenone one evening; the next morning, rain or sun will neutralize the toxin in Rotenone. If those pretty yellow or white butterflies are active around my greens, I spray with a liquid form of Bacillus Thurengiensis. It gives all worms fatal digestive problems but doesn't leave poison residue on my greens. As weather cools, pests become less active, and winter crops require little attention.
Turnips withstand cold quite well. I have dug out roots that were frozen solid. Repeated freezing and thawing will cause roots to become mushy, however. Plants which have stood through cold days and frosty nights quickly bolt to seed when spring arrives. Sometime in March, when forecasters stop predicting temperatures below 25 degrees, we prepare a row for our spring planting of turnips. Throughout the winter, we enjoy turnip greens once or twice a week. The greens contain more vitamin A, [B.sub.1], and [B.sub.2] than roots; and vitamin C is about the same in greens and roots. We all have been made aware of the importance of dark green leafy vegetables in our diets. The lowly turnip is good for you!
Whether I am cooking them for lunch, or to put by, I wash the greens well, discard any discolored leaves, look them over for insects, and cut them crosswise into two-inch strips. I put the greens on to boil while I peel and cut up the roots.
I add a couple of my own seasoning cubes. (Whenever I cook a ham, I cool the broth, skim off the fat, and pour the broth into ice cube trays. I store the cubes in a container in my freezer.)
To freeze turnips, I cook greens and roots together until they are almost table-ready. The books say to blanch them, but I find that root crops keep better if they are cooked before I store them in the freezer. I don't add seasoning, because salt would keep the vegetables from freezing as well.
To can turnips, I cook until they are thoroughly wilted, which makes them easier to pack into the jars. I add enough hot liquid to fill the jars, add a half-teaspoon of salt per quart, wipe the jars, put on the lids, and process them at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts).
I also dry a few turnips. Peel the roots and slice them, then blanch for about a minute. I place the turnip slices on the trays in a single layer, then set the dehydrator according to the manufacturer's instructions. My turnips dry in about 18 hours. To reconstitute, I drop them into boiling water, turn off the heat, and allow them to soak for half an hour. A few turnip slices added to a potful of potatoes adds zing to the flavor. Turnips also add zest to any kind of stew or soup.
In Low-Country South Carolina, summer heat bakes our garden to semi-dormancy during July and early August. During those months, we harvest little except okra and Crowder peas. We enjoy the turnips I canned or froze in spring. Then, as we turn the calendar to September, we begin planting our fall/winter crop.
NANCY PIERSON FARRIS
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|Title Annotation:||The garden|
|Author:||Farris, Nancy Pierson|
|Publication:||Countryside & Small Stock Journal|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2005|
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