I planted a small patch of turnips several weeks back, just to fill in an empty raised bed. It got overrun with weeds pretty quickly as I proceeded to neglect the bed, but surprisingly I still got a nice harvest of good-enough sized turnips. They definitely would have done better had I thinned them out.
In my defense, I did notice that the flea beetles were doing more damage to particular weeds than to my crops, which is why I left some of these weeds in the beds.
I was heading out of town for several days just as they were ready to be harvested. We’d never eat them all in time, so I looked up how I might preserve them. Several people recommended removing the tops from the roots and leaving the turnips in the ground until you are ready to eat them.
But how exactly should you leave them in the ground? Do you just cut the tops off and leave the roots where they are? Or do you pull up the turnips, cut the tops off, and then bury them again?
Since I couldn’t find the answer in any of my books or online, I decided to experiment for myself.
I took a kitchen knife to the tops of the majority of my crop, and laid the greens around the roots to act as a mulch. Yes, I could have eaten the greens, but I was literally on my way out the door for our trip.
Next, I uprooted just a couple of decent sized turnips, cut the tops off, and reburied them where they’d been growing. I wished them luck and was on my way. I thought for sure the bugs would destroy them or they would rot before we got back home.
About a week later, I went to check on the turnips to see what happened, and was surprised to find that the tops were growing back on the ones that I hadn’t uprooted. Which totally made sense once it hit me! I watched our cabbage do the same thing this summer as I cut the heads from the stems and they regrew little cabbage leaves. Why hadn’t that occurred to me?
The turnips I’d uprooted and buried looked surprisingly fine! As a matter of fact, it’s going on two weeks now and they still look exactly the same as when I first buried them.
Something else I find interesting is that the turnips that are regrowing their tops are growing in very nice and green, without any insect damage so far. Perhaps now that I’m home we’ll get a chance to enjoy some turnip greens after all!
Now… how long will the buried turnips last in the ground before they rot or are eaten by bugs? That answer is yet to be determined.
UPDATE: 10/28/15 (7 weeks later)
The turnip greens have grown back completely on the plants I never uprooted, and the turnips themselves are still looking very healthy and happy in the ground! I think it’s best just to store them where they grow, without pulling them up. The overnight frosts have killed the weeds growing all around the turnips, but the turnips themselves are still going strong. I’m wondering if the roots will be tough. I need to pull some up and try eating them soon.
Do you have any experience storing root crops right in the garden? What advice can you share?