Turnips are not the large woody vegetable people suggest they are, home-grown turnips are actually a really tasty vegetable that is easy to grow.
The secret not to having ‘woody’ turnips is to harvest and eat them while they are still small. Leaving turnips to grow too large is the main reason that they become tasteless and woody.
Turnips should be grown in fertile soil that has been dug well the previous autumn. They prefer being grown in an area where the soil is firm yet free draining.
The spot should be in a sunny location away from high winds and frosts. These are the ideal conditions for turnips however, it is still possible to get a reasonable crop if these ideal requirements are not met.
You can sow turnips right from March – August. Early varieties should ideally be planted from March up until June with maincrop turnips being sown in July and August.
Sow the small seeds thinly in rows that are ten inches apart, if you decide to grow one of the larger varieties you may wish to leave a larger space between rows.
Thin the seeds once they are large enough to handle. Maincrop varieties should be thinned to eight inches apart while the smaller early varieties are thinned to five inches apart.
General maintenance is required, weed the rows regularly using a hoe or by hand, the plants should be kept well watered throughout the season and you should protect the plants from pests. Cabbage root fly is the one that most gardeners have problems with.
Early varieties should be harvested from May, the turnips should be between golf ball and tennis ball size. If you leave these too long the roots will become woody and tasteless.
Main crop varieties are harvested later in the season, usually in October or early November. You can begin harvesting these while they are still small because flavour is key, not size! While early varieties can be pulled from the ground by hand main crop varieties tend to have a long root, lift these larger turnips with a garden fork.