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  • Writer's pictureTraci Arellano

Turnips are in perfection

“....try the mustard, -- a man can't know what turnips are in perfection without mustard.”

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

(1835-1910) ‘The Gilded Age’ (1873)

I don't know what, if anything, mustard has to do with Turnips but maybe we will all have to try it together since it comes on good authority from Mark Twain..."an American humorist, journalist, lecturer, and novelist who acquired international fame for his travel narratives" in the mid to late 1800s (

Are you a beginning gardener?

Me too. I am definitely new to growing turnips or even eating turnips for that matter. Would you like to go on a Turnip journey with me? I planted Purple Top White Globe turnips for the first time this spring. Firstly, I found some seeds at the local dollar store, 4 packages for a buck, so thought it might be fun to try to grow them and yet not cost a lot. Historically speaking, turnips were once considered a poor-man's food. They were primarily eaten by poor country people in ancient Greece and Rome.

But the turnip has come a long way baby! They are mag-nifi-cent! For a quarter it is definitely worth your time to find out for yourself. They are beautifully colored, taste like a mild radish and have a lovely crunch when you bite into them. The greens are edible as well...if you are from the south, turnip greens stewed low and slow are a standard side-dish. The greens in the garden are ready to eat at 4 weeks of growth and the bulbous root in 8 weeks. I read that 'pests are less problematic' with turnip plants, but as you can tell in my picture below, something in my garden was eating my turnip greens with reckless abandon. So for now I have to trust that they are super tasty. But since you will be paying better attention that I did, you can probably stay on top of any pest problems you encounter.

This is my turnip patch! I planted them from seed in a 4'x4' bed and pretty much ignored them for a month or two. Luckily there was plenty of rain this season, so when I turned my attention back to the bed, I had actually forgotten that I even planted turnips at all! The nasturtiums that had previously been their, reseeded themselves and took over. I thought I had weeds in the bed and started to pull them out when I realized what they truly were. My "weed pulling" ended up being a happy accident because I essentially thinned the turnip seedlings which improved the size of the turnips that remained. However, I can't bring myself to pull out all those beautiful nasturtium plants yet and read that they are pretty tasty as well.. .

"While most edible flowers have a subtle flavor, nasturtiums knock your socks off with their peppery taste. Plus, it's not just the flowers and buds that are packed with a zippy flavor; the young leaves are tender and edible as well." (

Turnips are obviously an extremely easy plant for the first time gardener to grow since I accidentally demonstrated that they do not require much attention at all. Just be sure to plant them in a full sun area and that the soil should be well-draining and kept moist. I think that my nasturtiums actually gave the turnip seedlings a moist microclimate, which is why they didn't ultimately dry out between the rains here in southern coastal cal.

Additionally, while you can see in my pictures that the sunflowers are casting shadow on the turnip patch, the sunflowers were quite short during the turnip germination and growth phase. So now that it is time to harvest turnips, it is also perfect timing to enjoy mammoth sunflower blooms that will be showing themselves in the next week or two. If you are planning on planting successive rotations of turnips, then you might want to keep into consideration your surrounding crops. Your turnips will be ready to harvest after 7-8 weeks when roots are 2-3 inches across.

So, now how do we eat them? If you don't want to invest much time or effort into googling recipes, then sauteing turnip coins with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and possibly red pepper flakes is always a delicious go-to plan. Pretty much anything you do to a potato, you can do to a turnip. However I did find a spectacular Parmesan Crusted Crushed Turnip recipe to share that is absolute heaven. (

Parmesan Crusted Crushed Turnips


  • 12 small to medium turnips, peeled

  • Salt

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese  (or as needed)

  • Chopped fresh chives


  1. Place peeled turnips in a pot of salted water to cover. Bring to a boil. Cook 20 to 30 minutes or until turnips can be pierced easily with a paring knife. Drain. Let cool slightly.

  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  3. Place the turnips on a clean kitchen towel or double layer of paper towels. Gently press each one down until it's approximately 1/2-inch high. Let them drain for 15 minutes then carefully flip them over onto a dry section of the towel or onto fresh paper towels so the other side drains and dries a bit.

  4. Combine garlic, olive oil and salt and black pepper, to taste in a small bowl.

  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick aluminum foil. Place the flattened turnips on the lined baking sheet. Brush each turnip with a little of the olive oil and garlic combination. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over each turnip, gently pressing it down.

  6. Carefully and quickly flip each turnip over. Repeat with the remaining olive oil and garlic combination and cheese.

  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Flip each turnip and bake an additional 15 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh chives and serve.

I hope this gets you contemplating planting your first turnip, or trying a new turnip recipe. Please leave a turnip comment, a turnip tip or a turnip pic of your own.

Turnip Take-aways:

  • Crazy easy to grow

  • Can be substituted for potatoes in many recipes

  • Turnips are a sophisticated, high nutrient, low calorie dense addition to your garden and your table

Happy Healthy Eating and continued Good Growing!

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