Tag Archives: turnip

Fairly Snarky

The Snarky Gardener entered his vegetables in the local county fair.  Now the Snarky Girlfriend will never hear the end of it.
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The Snarky Gardener with his award-winning zucchini

A little while back, the Snarky Girlfriend picked up this year’s Portage County Randolph Ohio fair book. She thought it would be cool for us to enter some items just for fun. She had some photos she wanted to enter, including one of my dog River. According to the rules, our entry forms had to be in by 8/5 even though the entries needed to be onsite when the fair started two weeks later. Telling the future is hard with garden produce, though I did have the option to enter and then just not have them. Going with a conservative first-timer approach, I perused the book, looking for viable vegetable categories.

Vegetables not quite ready for the big show:
1. Tomatoes and peppers – behind all year with cool wet weather
2. Corn – a few weeks off, not sure they would be ready by then
3. Beans – they wanted a quart of beans and I didn’t have that many.
4. Swiss chard – would rather eat it then enter it
5. Carrots – not enough and/or too small

Showable Vegetables:
1. Red potatoes – Red Chieftain
2. Golden potatoes – Yukon Golds
3. Kale – Red Russian
4. Turnips – Purple Top
5. Zucchini Under 10 inches- Sure Thing from Burpee

We dropped them off on Sunday 8/17, the day before the first day of the fair.  Right away I realized something was amiss.  People with kale and Swiss chard were using jars of water to keep them hydrated.  The fair book said to do this, but somehow I didn’t pick up on it (oh well – lesson learned).  On the plus side, we didn’t see any other turnip entries, so I knew I had a good chance of winning something in that category.  The turnips I entered were far from perfect, as they had pits and marks on them.  From the Internet articles I read after the fact, fair entered vegetables should all be little clones of each other and as close to retail sale quality as possible.

On Thursday (a long 4 days later), we attended the fair with some friends to see how I did (at least that’s how I saw it).  They seemed to be interested in other things first, like seeing the Snarky Girlfriend’s pictures (she won a second place ribbon for a flower picture), and eating fair food.   Finally we arrived at my vegetables and lo and behold, some had ribbons!  Two firsts and a second (yeah).  My red potatoes didn’t win (3rd place out of 3) as they were noticeable smaller and less uniform than the other competing entries.  But my Yukon Golds won second place (out of 4) – not bad at all.  My sad turnips garnered a first place ribbon as they had no competition.  But the topper was my zucchini which earned 1st place out of five.  Mine seemed to look the most like the ones you see at the grocery store.  Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to spend all the prize money on.  I wonder what I can purchase for $5.50?

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Zucchini 10″ and Under – First Place out of 5
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Root Vegetables – Turnips – 1st place out of 1
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Golden Potatoes – 2nd Place out of 4

How to Save Mustard, Kale, and Turnip Seed

Are you growing (or planning to grow) mustard, kale, or turnips?

Did you know it’s easy to save your own seed?

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Seven Top Turnips going to seed spring 2013
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Snarky Mustard going the seed fall 2013

Mustard, kale, and turnips basically all go to seed the same way. When they get stressed (hot weather, etc) or are overwintered, these plants send up stalks and put out flowers. These flowers are beautiful and functional, as they bring beneficial insects to your garden.  Once the stalks are produced (also called “bolting”), the leaves themselves become bitter as the plant puts its energy into getting busy (cue the Barry White music) reproducing.

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Mustard flowers and pods

The seed is ready to collect once the stalks turn brown and dry out. Unfortunately, the pods don’t all dry out at once, with the ones closer to the base of the plant going first. If you wait until they are completely ready, some seed will escape onto the ground and you’ll have babies starting before you know it. This is a good thing if you are trying to get a perennial supply of yummy greens. Not so good if you have plans for that area in the form of other crops. But, as I always say, edible weeds are better than inedible weeds.

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Dried out stalks stuffed into a plastic trash bag

The best system I’ve found so far to collect this type of seed is through the use of garden cutters and trash bags. Just snip below the pods and put the top into the bag. This way you can squish and crush up the pods in the bag and have the tiny little seeds fall to one corner. Cut the corner tip as small as you can and release the seed. You will get some chaff (fancy word of the day) but only some, not all.

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Cut the tip of the bag to release just the smallest parts – seeds and some chaff
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Seeds and chaff
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Tip the container to collect the seeds to one side and pick out the other stuff

If all goes right, you can put the separated seed into a holding vessel (like this glass jar pictured below).  Once there, you can shake it to force the lighter chaff to the top for more removal.  You could also use a screen to sift out the extra material.

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The finished product

Good luck and happy gardening!

Succession Planting 2013

Succession planting is the process of planting one crop after another.  This sometimes means planting something every two weeks (like bush green beans or lettuce) so that you can have a continuous supply.  Other times it means the gardener (snarky or not) will plant something in the spring (like spinach or peas) and then when it peters out with the warming weather, put in something else (like corn or squash), then when summer comes to a close, grow fall crops (like turnips or mustard or spinach).  For my garden, I do both with a preference for the spring/summer/fall system, as I like to grow as much as possible for as long as possible (insert smugness here).

Here’s an example with my summer potatoes and then my fall turnips, peas, and corn salad.

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Potatoes in early Summer 2013
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Turnips, peas, and corn salad in Fall 2013

Here is my monthly garden progression so you get the idea of succession over a whole season.

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March 2013

In April, I decided to use Cascade bush peas to get my Three Sisters corn/beans/squash mounds started. They make a good spring time filler while the gardener waits for the temperatures to stabilize above freezing.

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April 2013

By the way, this was the first time I coerced my Three Sisters garden to actually work out in three years, with the beans going up the corn like they were supposed to instead not growing at all.  Persistence pays off this time – yeah me.

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May 2013
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June 2013

The turnips in the top middle near the potatoes were totally accidental as I let one of my Purple Top turnips go to seed. I’ll try to use the same technique next year by moving some of my overwintered turnips (bottom left quadrant in September) to other parts of my garden.  I planted the upper row of Tendergreen bush beans first and then the second row about 2 or 3 weeks later.  I would have done a third row in August but the pumpkins ended up taking over from the west.  This area will be planted with Roma tomatoes next year. (Yes, I’m already neurotically planning next year’s garden, including a new one in my front yard next to my tree line).

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July 2013

The Ho Mi Z mustard in the upper right corner is currently going to seed as of this November post.  I’m going to collect as much as I can, but there will definitely be random mustard all over the place next year.  Again, I love to have edible weeds (or volunteers as they are sometimes called).  The mustard was planted as a “cover crop” as I knew I was putting in potatoes in that area next year. Mustard is supposed to help potatoes by countering nematodes and weeds. Plus you get delicious greens for salads, etc and seeds for cooking and making mustard. I picked Ho Mi Z (aka Dragon Tongue) because it was on sale at Johnny’s Seeds last year.

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Mustard going to seed – Fall 2013
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August 2013

The Tyee spinach, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia), and Cascade peas will be covered with leaf mulch this fall and uncovered in the middle of next March.  This will allow them to overwinter and be ready to go in the spring, saving a month or two of potential growth.  This will be my first year trying this, so I’ll post my findings for your enjoyment and knowledge.

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September 2013
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October 2013
November 2013
November 2013

Seed Saving 2013

With the start of fall comes my seed saving efforts.  With a bounty of seeds, I’ve been considering setting up some type of Internet-based sales site, but that might have to wait until late in 2014.  For now, I’m going to limit my myself to trading, swapping, and time credits from the Kent Community TimeBank.

Tomatoes:

Sylvia’s Amish Low Acid Red

Chocolate Cherry

Snarky Orange Cherry
F3 of Sun Gold (F1)

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Tomato Seed Saving technique
Peppers:

Jalapeno (from my AeroGarden)

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Beans:

Jacob’s Cattle Dry

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Rattlesnake Pole – both green and dry

I grew Rattlesnake beans up my corn and my tomato cages this year.

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Rattlesnake Pole beans on my corn – 7/17/2013
Tendergreen Bush – green

Bean: Tendergreen Improved image

Mustard:

Ho-Mi Z (Dragon Tongue)

Turnips:

Seven Top

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Seven Top Turnips going to seed

Lettuce:

Amish Deer Tongue

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Amish Deer Tongue lettuce going to seed.

Sauteed Turnip Greens

One of the reasons I garden is to provide my family with as much of our own food as possible.  There is a certain pride in being able to point to a dish and say “I grew AND cooked that”.  It occurred to me that if I wanted to grow entire meals, I would have to go vegan (because there aren’t bacon plants – though I think Monsanto might be working on them).   To that end, I’ve collected some recipes from the Internet (and beyond) that I can totally produce from my produce (minus oils, sauces, spices and salt).  As the season progresses and I can make dishes and whole meals from my garden, SG will blog about it.

The Snarky Gardener overwintered Seven Top turnip greens and they have really came back like gangbusters (or is it ghostbusters?) this spring.  I’m not really a turnip green lover, but they are nutritious and easy to grow.  Seven Top turnips are grown just for their greens, as the roots are not really edible (not that I have tried).  Of course by letting them go over winter, the first thing they want to do is go to seed (thus the definition of “bi-annual”).  I figured these greens would be bitter as plants who bolt tend to get that way.  But a trial munch found them to be better than they were last summer as the cool weather must be what they like.  So I decided to make sauteed turnip greens with this spring bounty.

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Overwintered Seven Top turnip greens – 4/13/2013
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Overwintered Seven Top turnip greens – 4/13/2013
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Overwintered Seven Top turnip greens (outside the fence on the west side of the garden) – 4/13/2013

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I found an online recipe with just a quick search.  This one is common and can be used with other greens (spinach, kale, collard).  Most turnip green recipes include bacon or salted pork as a component because turnip greens tend to be bitter (supposedly because of their calcium content if you believe the Internet) and bacon makes everything taste better.  This recipe is vegan (no pork) but it suggests using balsamic vinegar or soy sauce which do taste good with bitter dishes (went with the vinegar this time).  The garlic I used for this did not come from my garden (not ready until July), but it was from the local farmer’s market, so close enough for now.

Recipe:

1.  Coat the bottom of a wok or skillet with high-heat vegetable oil (canola or peanut but not olive oil) and heat over medium heat.
2.  Peel and mince 2 garlic cloves and saute in the oil until lightly browned.
3.  Add ½ lb. turnip greens, rinsed and with the stems removed.
4.  Cook greens, turning them gently, until they darken and become limp.
5.  Season with salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of either soy sauce or balsamic vinegar.

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Don’t I look delicious?
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Freshly picked turnip greens – 4/20/2013
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Sauteing garlic in peanut oil – 4/20/2013
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Sauteing the greens outside – 4/20/2013