Knowing when to plant and harvest any plant is key information to have. This is a common question I hear from people, and turnips are frequently mentioned.
Turnips are a winter crop in the United States and usually are harvested from October through March. However, because they are grown in 49 out of the 50 states, and since the growing season in the states vary because of the climate, turnips are in season somewhere in the U.S. every month of the year.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) established and monitors plant hardiness zones depending on weather patterns over a certain period of time to aid anyone growing any type of plants or trees, whether they are farmers, foresters, or just part-time gardeners in selecting and caring for plants that will perform the best in each particular region of the United States.
Below is a chart that gives a breakdown of the USDA zones in which each state falls and the growing season for turnips in each state, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Growing Season for Turnips Within Each State Including Plant Hardiness Zones
|1(a) – 8(b)||AK||X||X||X||X||X|
Keep in mind that there are some differences in the growing season within each region and even within each state. Even though two states may be located in the same region, the growing seasons may be different because of their specific locations within the region.
The answer to the question “When are turnips in season?” is that it depends on the area in which you live. For more in-depth and specific information and to find out the growing season for turnips for the particular zone in which you are located, see the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map at https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/.
The most recent Plant Hardiness Map issued by the USDA was in 2012 after gathering and studying weather patterns beginning in 1976 and running through 2005.
Related must-read article: Garden Vegetables Planting and Harvest Times (With Charts).
How Do You Select Turnips?
The turnip greens that you are either picking or buying should be bright green and free from blemishes. They should be firm, crisp, and not wilted, although if turnip leaves are just slightly wilted, they will perk back up when placed in cool water for a short time.
Turnip roots should also be small, firm, and solid. They should be smooth, heavy for their size, and free from cracks and blemishes. The larger roots tend to be woody or pithy, which means they are going bad from the inside out, and the centers will either be spongy or have bad spots.
Should Turnips Be Washed Right After Being Picked?
Turnips and all other types of greens should not be washed until they are either going to be cooked or processed for canning or freezing.
If greens are dirty, you can avoid getting the refrigerator dirty by placing them in a plastic bag to store them in the refrigerator prior to cooking, freezing, or canning them.
How Do You Clean Turnip Greens?
Turnips, as well as all other types of greens, must be washed thoroughly to remove all dirt, sand, bugs, and foreign matter. If they are not washed properly, they could have some sand or dirt particles, and maybe even a bug or two, left in them, and they are very unappetizing if you bite down on a grain of sand or discover a bug floating in the pot.
All greens from the garden should be washed at least 3 times, possibly as many as 5 times, depending on weather conditions and whether soil from the garden has splashed up on the plants. But, they should only be washed right before they are going to either be cooked or processed for canning or freezing.
The packaged greens that you buy from the supermarket that are labeled “ready to cook” can be safely cooked or added to salads without washing them, though I usually at least rinse them once, but any greens bought by the bunch or picked from a garden should be washed thoroughly.
The only method I have ever used for washing is as follows:
- Use 2 large bowls or dishpans or both sides of a double sink. Run enough water in one sink or bowl to cover the bunch of greens.
- Once covered, swish the leaves around several times with your hands and then lift them one handful at a time out of the water and place them into the other sink or bowl.
- Let or pour out the first water and run fresh water onto the greens.
- Repeat this process until there are no sand particles in the bottom of the sink or bowl when you run your hand across the bottom.
- Once all the sand is gone, rinse them one more time, remove the stems or ribs, and they are ready to cook.
How Do You Clean Turnip Roots?
Turnip roots should be peeled and washed thoroughly before cooking.
How Long Do Turnip Greens Last?
- Fresh turnip greens can stay good for 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator if stored properly.
- Cooked turnip greens will stay good in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- To store turnip greens for 2 to 3 years, they should be washed, blanched, and stored in a freezer in freezer-safe bags or boxes.
- Can turnip greens in jars by using a pressure canner to preserve them and render them shelf stable for up to 5 years or more.
How Long Do Turnip Roots Last?
- Fresh turnip roots can stay good for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator if stored properly in plastic bags.
- Cooked turnip roots will stay good in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- To store turnip roots for up to 6 months, they should be washed, blanched, and stored in a freezer in freezer-safe bags or boxes.
- Can turnip roots in jars by using a pressure canner to preserve them and render them shelf stable for up to 5 years or more.
How Can Turnips Be Preserved?
Turnips can be preserved by either canning or freezing them. Here is an overview of both methods of preservation.
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, turnips, like all low acid vegetables, must be canned by the pressure canner method. There is no safe way to can vegetables by using the boiling water bath method.
For step-by-step instructions for canning turnips see the National Center for Home Food Preservation website here, or for canning turnip greens, check out my YouTube video for instructions for pressure canning collard greens from garden to jar. Collard greens and turnip greens would be canned by using exactly the same method.
Also, for canning turnip roots, check out my YouTube video for instructions for a detailed guide to pressure canning turnip roots:
Turnip greens, along with all other types of greens, can be preserved by freezing. The process involves washing the greens and removing the stems the same as for cooking, blanching them, and freezing them in freezer-safe bags or boxes.
As a matter of fact, I usually go ahead and cook a large pot of greens, serve a bowl of them for supper, and freeze the rest. Then, when I want to use the frozen greens, all I have to do is thaw them out, heat them thoroughly, and they are ready for the meal.
Turnip roots can be preserved by freezing as well by cleaning and blanching and storing them in a freezer-safe bag or box. However, in my opinion, turnip roots become mushy after freezing and are not as good as turnip roots that have been pressure canned.
What Exactly Are Turnips?
When you hear the word turnip, does it make you think of a green leafy vegetable, or do you think of a root vegetable similar to beets, only smaller? Actually, turnips are versatile and are both turnip greens that are very similar to other types of greens, like mustard, collards, and kale, and turnip roots that are a sweet root vegetable similar to rutabagas that can be eaten raw, boiled, or baked.
The turnip is a member of the same root vegetable family as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, but the tops are greens that are very similar to mustard greens. When the turnip roots are fully matured, the greens are quite often bitter, but here in the South, we begin harvesting the turnip greens when they are young, tender, and delicious, by pinching off the largest leaves, and leaving the plants to continue to grow.
Turnip roots are similar to rutabagas only smaller with a milder flavor.
According to WebMD, turnips are not only one of the hardiest vegetables but also one of the oldest, having grown wild in Siberia during the age of the dinosaur.
What Can You Serve With Turnips?
Turnip greens, along with other types of green, leafy vegetables, can be served with all types of food and are especially good as part of the following meals:
- Boiled and served as a side dish with any kind of meat, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cornbread as a traditional Southern dish;
- Cooked as an ingredient in soups and stews;
- Sauteed turnip greens with lots of garlic and onions as a side dish with macaroni and cheese as a superb vegan meal; or
- Roasted turnip roots drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh herbs, and served with fresh salmon and a baked potato.
What Is The Nutritional Value Of Turnips?
Turnip greens contain more calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E than collard greens and are especially beneficial in reducing anemia and maintaining healthy skin.
Turnip roots are especially high in calcium and folate.
According to the USDA, one cup of raw cubed turnip roots can be described by the information in the following table:
|Nutrient||Amount Per One Cup Serving|
|Carbohydrates (Sugar)||8.36 grams (4.66 grams)|
|Vitamin K||0.13 micrograms|
|Vitamin C||27.3 milligrams|
Turnips are loaded with vitamins and minerals including calcium, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin C, while turnip greens are full of vitamins C and K.
Like mustard, kale, collards, and other greens in general, turnip greens have “anticancer effects” and reduce the risk of several kinds of cancer, including prostate, breast, ovarian, lung, bladder, and colon cancers, for those people who regularly eat one or more types of greens. Greens improve bone health, boost eye health, and benefit heart and digestive health.
Are There Possible Negative Effects to Eating Greens?
Greens are very nutritious for most people. However, there is one group of people who should perhaps refrain from eating large amounts of greens.
Because greens provide high levels of vitamin K, which is the nutrient involved in the process of blood clotting, those people taking a blood thinner for the treatment of certain heart conditions, should be aware that consuming large amounts of greens could interfere with the effectiveness of their medications.
Although turnips are considered a winter crop, since I live in the Gulf Coast region of the United States which has a longer growing season, I’m able to grow two crops of turnips per year, an early spring crop and a late fall crop. I plant the first crop in late February or early March and am able to enjoy turnips until the plants wilt and die from the heat as summer approaches.
The second crop is usually planted in late September or early October, depending on the weather and when it begins cooling off and gives us a break from the summer heat. We are then able to eat fresh turnips right out of the garden until the weather becomes so cold that we have several freezes in a row. Actually, some years the winters are so mild that we never have a freeze which allows the crop to last longer, and we are able to enjoy the turnips throughout the winter.
For more, don’t miss Which Fertilizer Makes Plants Grow Faster? | Optimum Growth Guide.
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