Turnips are easily distinguishable for their round white body and purple top.
This root vegetable belongs to the Brassica family, so it tastes a bit like cabbage when you eat it raw.
What you’ll like most about it, though, is the fact that it is easy to grow and quick to mature.
When to harvest turnips? In as fast as 40 to 55 days after planting, your turnips will be ready to harvest. However, they might take longer to mature if grown in less-than-ideal conditions. Harvesting the leafy greens also means the roots will need more time to grow.
How Do You Know When Your Turnips Are Ready To Harvest?
Depending on whether you’re after its leafy greens or the roots, you will have to wait anywhere from five weeks to two months before you can harvest turnips.
Turnips like the cool weather, so planning when to plant them is very important.
If you plant in late summer, you can expect a harvest come fall.
On the other hand, you will get a spring crop if you plant turnips in early spring or late winter.
You will know they are ready for picking once the leaves are four to six inches high.
Like mustard, turnip greens have a rich flavor profile perfect for soups and pesto.
However, more than the flavor, you’ll like them even more for their vitamin K and C content.
They also contain high levels of vitamin A, iron, and calcium.
As for the roots, wait for them to grow to approximately two inches wide before harvesting.
Doing this will guarantee you get the best flavor and the right tender texture.
Similar to any crop, though, the harvest times will differ depending on the variety.
Sowing seeds three weeks apart will ensure you get a continuous harvest throughout the season.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Turnips?
Harvested at the right time, turnips are a healthier substitute for potatoes.
The thing is, you will have to know the best time to harvest them to get the sweet flavor and tender texture you want.
Leave them in the ground too long, and the roots will grow too big and become woody and bitter.
Moreover, you will want to harvest them before the ground gets too warm, as heat exposure also affects the flavor.
On the contrary, allowing them to stay in the ground during cold months might actually help level up their flavor.
The key is making sure you only do this if the ground does not freeze.
You can even keep planted through fall or early winter if you live in an area with a warmer climate.
Watch out for rainstorms after a couple of days of dry spells, too, as it might cause the roots to crack open.
In other words, if you planted turnips in spring, you will want to harvest them before winter comes.
On the other hand, you can leave summer-planted turnips in the ground until late fall through winter.
These cold-weather-loving crops can withstand frost, so you won’t need to dig them up until the ground shows signs of freezing.
More often than not, you should expect turnips to flower and bolt in their second year.
If they do flower and go to seed earlier than that, it could be because of a lack of nutrients or exposure to extreme temperatures.
Unfortunately, this may result in the roots not growing as big as you want them to be or not growing at all.
Bolting is also one of the main reasons you should harvest turnips before it gets too warm.
How To Harvest Turnips?
As you may have already realized, the good thing about deciding to grow turnips is that it matures quickly.
Even better, you can make use of both turnip greens and roots to add a touch of farm-to-table goodness to your dishes.
Again, they’d be ready in about two months after sowing, so you won’t even have to wait that long.
Harvesting Turnip Greens
For the best flavor, harvest greens when the roots are still young and small.
However, keep in mind that you can only do this a few times if you’re also growing turnips for their roots.
Step 1: Wait until leaves are grown.
You’ll know the greens are ready when they are the right height, which could be anywhere from a couple of inches to 12 inches tall.
Step 2: Only cut the outer leaves.
As with any crop, the leaves play a big part in photosynthesis, helping the roots mature and grow.
If you’re growing turnips both for the greens and roots, cutting all the leaves will most likely stop the roots from maturing.
Hence, only cut the outer leaves and leave the inner intact.
With ideal growing conditions, you might even be lucky enough to have a second harvest.
Step 3: Cut two inches above the crown.
When picking turnip greens, cut the leaves two to three inches from the base.
For this, you can use a sharp pair of garden shears to avoid damaging the plant.
If you do this correctly, there’s a good chance that the leaves will grow back to give you a second harvest.
Harvesting Turnip Roots
The most sure-fire way to know when to harvest turnips is to check the packets your seeds came in.
There, you will see the expected mature size of the turnip variety you are growing.
If that’s not possible, you can also just pull a turnip root or two to check out their size.
Step 1: Harvest turnip roots when they are still young.
Turnips that haven’t reached their full size yet are the most tender and flavorful.
Often, early varieties are ready for harvest in just five weeks; others might take anywhere from six to 10 weeks.
If you’ve planted for a fall harvest, get ready to start pulling out the roots right after a light frost or two in your region.
Do this before the ground freezes to have turnips at their sweetest stage.
You can also start harvesting later in the season, but you will have to put mulch on top of your soil to protect the roots from the cold.
Step 2: Check the size.
If you are more confident checking the roots yourself, you can refer to the crowns poking out of the soil.
Aim for a diameter of about two to five inches, which tells you the entirety of the root in-ground is already a good size.
Step 3: Loosen the soil.
The best time to pull out turnip roots from the ground is when the soil is dry.
This way, it would be almost effortless to brush away and loosen to reveal the crops.
While you can use a garden fork to do this, some prefer using their hands to avoid damaging the roots.
Step 4: Lift the plant gently.
Being as careful as you can, pull the roots out of the ground one plant at a time.
Then, twist off and remove the greens. Doing this simple trick will prolong your turnips’ storage life.
Should You Wash Turnips After Harvesting?
If you look at turnip leaves closely, you will notice fine hairs all over.
It’s just one characteristic of turnip greens that makes them very different from its Brassica cousins, such as cabbages.
The problem is that these “hairs” hold on to dirt and other unwelcome stuff much more than they do on other plants.
Therefore, it would be best if you wash them thoroughly after harvesting and before you cook it.
You may have to do this several times until you’re sure that every inch is clean.
As for the roots, you can wash them before storing them, but you will have to make sure you allow them to dry thoroughly.
Otherwise, you can just rub the soil off before putting them in your root cellar.
Can You Eat Turnips Immediately After Harvesting?
Another thing we like about turnips is that you can eat them immediately after harvest.
In fact, it is advisable to consume bruised or damaged roots as soon as you pick them because they won’t last long in storage.
Turnips prefer cool storage, so aim for conditions where temperatures are about 32 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity is 95 percent.
You could keep them in the fridge for about two to three weeks if you harvested small roots.
On the other hand, larger roots will store better in a root cellar or a cool dark basement.
Given the right storage conditions, they can last for several months.
As mentioned, those who live in milder climates can also leave them in the ground covered in straw or hay.
Another trick is to dip each root in warm wax to help keep the moisture in so that it lasts longer in storage.
If you follow this hack, you will have a good supply of turnip roots for two to four months.
From sowing seeds to harvesting the leafy greens and sweet-tasting roots, growing turnips is easy.
The best part is that they will grow and mature in as fast as two months.
Whether you’re a beginner home gardener or not, it’s one of the best root vegetables you can add to your garden.