Just Veggies with Ellen Wells

Crisp asparagus, mouthwatering tomatoes, crunchy carrots, even juicy berries. You don’t have to be a vegan to appreciate the value of good tasting vegetables. Ellen Wells, our Just Veggies blogger, talks about her experiences in starting them, planting them, growing them, and best of all, eating them. Yum, yum!

First Pass at Growing Turnips Blog Image

First Pass at Growing Turnips

I have this gardening rule - a loose rule, but a rule nonetheless: Each year I plant at least one thing I know nothing about. This year's unfamiliar crop is turnips. I had never had much culinary experience with them. Mom never cooked them. Friends and roommates never prepared them, and certainly didn't grow them. All I knew, really, was that they are a root crop, and I suspected they took a while to grow. Size, color, growing requirements—all of that was a bit of a mystery.

I was given a seed packet of turnips meant for wholesale growers. The packaging was nondescript - no instructions, no photos, nothings. So naturally, in midsummer I just created a furrow in the soil and sowed some turnip seeds without further research.

I should have done some research.

For instance, I imagined turnips growing much bigger than the gum ball-sized items that I produced. It's rutabagas that a large softballs. I should have known that.

And I should have known to given the seeds a little extra room in the row. Even though turnips are on the small side, I still planted the seeds way too close, not giving them enough room to grow. I should have known.

I suspected turnips were related to all things cabbage. However, I still planted them in mid July - the hottest time of year - instead of in the cool growing season that cabbage types prefer. I should have realized this.

The good thing about my turnip experience is that I didn't have to do much to grow a few good turnips. I watered well but not too very much. I had planted in a rich soil that didn't drain too quickly. And I just happened to plant them in a spot that received lots of sun. And for my minuscule efforts I was blessed with just enough turnips to include in my version of a very veggie beet soup (turnips provide some background notes in the dish).

I did eventually do some research on turnips for my next go-round with the crop. I will plant when the soil is steadily 40F in spring. I will plant seeds at least one inch apart. I will expect a crop in about 60-70 days. And I will plant a heck of a lot more of them, considering they aren't all that big after all. I'm glad I know that now.

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Ellen Wells

Meet Ellen

When you are raised on a farm, you can't help but know a thing or two about gardening. Ellen Wells learned about agriculture from her parents/grandparents and then went an extra step by studying biology at college. She¹s now editor-at-large for Green Profit magazine, a trade publication for garden centers. Ellen also writes for the Boston Globe.

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