Turnips and Rutabaga

White turnip growing.

Turnips have a small white round root with a thin skin. Rutabagas have a big yellow root often called a winter turnip. These vegetables can be seeded in the spring to be harvested early in the season or in mid July for a fall harvest.

There is no need to harvest all the roots at one time as they will remain tender in the soil for up to 2 months. Rutabagas will improve in flavor after a frost as well. S

tart harvesting when the roots are the size of a golf ball. The greens are very nutritious so use them as well for salads or steaming.

Botanical Family - Brassicaeae/Mustard Family

Companion Planting

  • Positive: bean, peas
  • Negative: none

Location - Cool weather, adequate moisture and good drainage.

Soil - Sandy and not too rich in nitrogen.

Soil Preparation - Add 2” of compost or aged manure to early season crops. If the soil is clayey add some sand as well.

Info on planting Turnips:

Seed Info

Seed Spacing - 12” apart ½” deep
Germinate at soil temperature of 15 – 30 C
Days to Maturity - 30-60 days

Planting Times - Direct seed April to August. Succession plant every few weeks.

Planting Instruction - Hand seed. Water well once seeded. Will require thinning once they start to grow.

Watering - Regular thorough soaking.

Weeding - Keep weeded while plants are small.

Disease & Insects - cabbage root maggot, flea beetle, club root disease


Roots and leaves can be eaten cooked or raw.  I love both turnip and rutabaga cut in sticks and eaten raw (similar to how carrots are eaten).  The root can be shredded into salads.  Leaves can also be added to salads or cooked similar to spinach or kale.

  • Leaf: Cut greens when young and tender. Add to salad mix.
  • Root: pull the whole plant when the root is the size of a golf ball or more in diameter.

Storage - Tops need to be used quickly. Roots will store for several weeks in the refrigerator or in a cool area packed in sand, sawdust or peat moss.


Herb Baked Turnips 

2 medium turnips – slice ¼ inch thick

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon dried parsley – crushed

1 teaspoon dried basil – crushed

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Few dashes each: cayenne and kelp 

Mix all ingredients together well (except turnips).  Dip the slices in the mixture and bake at 400 F for 9-14 minutes until very tender, but not dry.

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