It’s still brass monkeys here.
In spite of the chill the first seeds of 2015 are coming up. It’s always very exciting to see sown seed germinating, especially the early crops. I bundled down to the polytunnel to check on progress and lo…there was sprinkle of mini plants with embryonic leaves marking out a row. At first I thought it would be a radish sowing as it is quick to germinate but it isn’t – it’s a variety of Turnip, (Brassica rapa), called ‘Snowball’.
I shouldn’t be surprised that the first to germinate is the turnip because they are very hardy plants and, apparently, very easy to grow. So I can’t think why I haven’t grown turnip before and I’ve probably only cooked with the vegetable on a few occasions. Obviously it’s time to change this state of affairs and I’m already on the lookout for great recipes.
Confusingly some areas in the UK, e.g. Scotland, North England, Cornwall, call a turnip a swede and vice versa. For the record I call the orange fleshed roots swede and the, usually smaller, white fleshed root, turnip. Even Brussels have had to accommodate this cross naming. A Cornish pasty can be ‘said’ to contain turnip but actually contains ‘swede’; (I’ve probably bunged in both).
I’ve sown a number of varieties:
- Petrowski -this is an early yellow fleshed turnip, so of course the rule of thumb that swedes have orange flesh and turnips white has immediately gone out the window . It was introduced to England by Suttons back in 1879. An early variety with sweet, crisp flesh;
- Green Top Stone, a main crop turnip with pale green tops and white bottoms; in truth I may have been a bit quick off the mark sowing this so soon, and
‘Snowball’ is an heirloom variety and is meant to be sweet and juicy.
The leaves of turnip can be used as greens, (Alys Fowler is a great fan of turnip greens), though I think I’ll be growing the crop mainly for the roots. As the turnip is a member of the brassica family it will need protection from the cabbage whites and from flea beetle; hopefully the early sowing in the tunnel will be mature enough to lift before either of those pests become a problem. Lifting the roots when they are small, about golf ball size, is meant to avoid the bitter taste of older specimens.
I’m trying to embrace using less favoured vegetables, (well less favoured by me), in our meals, or as Yotam Ottolenghi would say …. ‘spread the love’. Here’s a great sounding recipe from the man:
Roast turnip, potato and garlic with harissa and orange.
Reading this week: Seven Flowers and How They Shaped Our World by Jennifer Potter