As I was getting a post together on some turnips Emily grew this summer, I started looking at photos from a 2009 turnip seed crop. So today, we’ll look at how to save seed turnip seed and
- Clear up all that confusion about turnips and rutabagas
- Explain how turnips need to be overwintered
- And show how turnips go to seed.
Turnips And Rutabagas
Most people call rutabagas turnips. Turnips and rutabagas are actually two separate vegetables.
Rutabaga on the left, turnip on the right.
Turnips are white fleshed, usually 2-4″ wide, and tender enough to eat raw (they can also be cooked). They are from the Brassica rapa species and easily cross with the other members of that species: chinese cabbage, rapini, mizuna, tatsoi, and a number of leafy greens.
Rutabagas are yellow fleshed, 4-8″ wide, and eaten cooked. They are from the Brassica napus species and won’t cross with turnips. Rutabagas are also known as swedes.
That being said, saving rutabaga seed is done in pretty much the same manner as saving turnip seed . Starting with …
Turnips are biennials, which means they have a two-year life cycle:
- Year one: they grow a storage root accumulating energy.
- Year two: the root uses that energy to produce a flower stalk, sets seed, then dies.
In our climate, turnips do not overwinter in the ground. To grow turnip seed, you need to dig roots in the fall and store them in a root cellar, fridge or cold room. And that’s where this story begins.
March 2009 – We had a lot of turnips in cold storage and were still bringing them to market.
I chose the nicest roots to re-plant for seed carefully inspecting the top of each root to make sure the growing point was intact. By the time the ground was dry enough to plant, most of the roots had leaves a couple of inches long.
Second Year Turnip Plants
April 24, 2009 – I planted the turnips 3 rows to a bed, 12″ apart in the row; and left the tops above ground. The yellow leaves were hungry for some tasty spring sunshine.
May 4, 2009 – In just over two weeks, not only had the turnip leaves turned a vibrant green but they were now over a foot long.
May 13, 2009 – The turnip plants were covered in buds ready to open. These are also delicious fried with butter and garlic.
June 11, 2009 – The turnip flowers had just passed their peak
From this point on, saving turnip seed is the same as saving most other brassica seeds. Two of my previous posts cover the specifics of
The turnip story continues next post when we discuss how a generation of saving turnip seed fits into the bigger picture. I can’t wait either!