But in my opinion, one of the most versatile crops you can grow in your fall garden is your turnip green. The reason is that you only have to plant one vegetable, and you’ll get two products.
However, if you plant them, then you must know when and how to harvest them as well.
Also, you’ll need to know what to do with them once they are harvested.
Harvesting Turnip Greens
Here is all you need to know about harvesting, storing, and utilizing your turnip green harvest.
1. Harvest the Greens
I love turnip greens. The reason is you can harvest the greens multiple times while the turnips are still growing.
So when the green leaves get to be the size of a medium leaf or so, then they are ready to pick. Some people enjoy them when they are very young because of how tender they are.
But my word of advice is to not pick them when they’ve gotten very large because they become a little more tough with age. Hey, don’t we all?
Anyway, when the leaves are at the size you prefer, then you go down to the base of the stalk and use your pointer finger and thumb to gently break them away from the plant. You will do this again and again until you have picked as many greens as you like for the time.
Now, you have the option of just picking enough for one meal, or you can pick a whole bunch and store for later. I’m going to assume that you are harvesting a large amount for later storage in this particular post.
2. Harvest the Turnips
When the turnips begin to break the ground above them, you’ll know it is time to harvest them. If you are unfamiliar, a turnip is a root vegetable that grows under the ground.
Now, you need to know upfront that turnips have a very strong taste. In my experience, you either like them or you don’t. I, truthfully, don’t like them.
However, we grow them every year because my mother-in-law liked them, and I love the greens from them.
Now that my mother-in-law is no longer with us, I’ll probably end up using the turnips as feed for my animals.
Anyway, when you see the turnips begin to push through the dirt, then you know they have reached a good size. You can pull a few to get an idea of the general size of the bunch. If they aren’t big enough, then don’t pull them all up and wait a few weeks to check again.
Once they’ve reached a decent size, you can either pull them up by the green or if the ground is hard, you can use your spade to dig around the turnip to pull it out of the ground.
Then place the turnips in your basket and roll through the crop until they are all harvested.
3. Wash Up
After you have collected the greens and the turnips, you’ll need to take them inside to wash them in your sink. I would recommend washing the turnips with a damp paper towel or even a dry one. You just want to knock the dirt and bugs off of them for now.
However, when it comes to your greens, you’ll need to fill the sink with cold water and toss the greens into the water. When they are in, you’ll begin to push the greens under water with your hands and bring them back up.
Then you’ll roll the greens around in the water with your hands. When you think you’ve gotten the dirt off, put the greens in the sink next to it, fill with fresh water, and repeat the process while the first sink drains.
Next, you’ll clean the first sink out, and fill it with cold water to toss the greens back into it. You’ll repeat the process of washing the greens in the cold water over and over until the water finally comes out pretty well clear. The idea is to remove all of the dirt and bugs because you don’t want to eat them.
Then you’ll lay the turnip greens out on towels and pat them dry. You can leave them on the counter to air dry for a little bit while you begin to process turnips.
But if you are not processing your vegetables on the same day, then you can leave the turnips sitting out on the counter. Be sure to place the turnip greens in the fridge so they don’t begin to wilt.
4. Take Care of the Turnips
You have multiple ways to store your turnips. The first way is the method I usually used when I preserved them for my mother-in-law.
First, I would cook the turnips down until they were soft and mushy. They kind of resembled whipped potatoes.
Then I would give them to her to eat with a meal. Whatever she didn’t eat, I would bag up and store them in a freezer bag. That way they could be easily frozen and used for about 3 months after initially frozen.
However, keep in mind, that you want to store them in proper amounts that you would want to eat them in.
Because once they are thawed, they cannot be refrozen for food safety reasons.
So you may want to consider freezing them in containers like this, to make dividing them out into serving portions a little easier.
Once frozen, you simply set them out to thaw before reheating and then serving them as part of a meal again.
The second method you can use to store turnips is like you would any other root vegetable. For this method, you didn’t really even have to wipe the dirt off of the turnips, but some people like to put away cleaner food.
Anyway, you can either wrap the turnips in newspaper or layer the wooden box they are stored in with shredded paper, straw, or sawdust.
Then you layer the turnips in the box. I recommend wooden because they hold up better to the elements, and they don’t attract as many pests to your produce. Whatever box you use, you want to make sure that your turnips are not directly touching skin to skin because this will cause rot.
So the name of the game is to separate your harvest as best as possible, then storing. You’ll want to keep them in a dark, cool, dry location so nothing spoils. If you store them like this, then you can pull them out and prepare them fresh just as you would the day you pulled them out of your garden.
5. Process Your Greens
After you have processed your turnips, it is now time to process your greens. You’ll want to remove any stems from the turnip greens. You just want the tender leaves.
Once they have been removed, it is time to cook your greens. I will put greens in a large stockpot. You’ll want to add plenty of water to the stockpot, but don’t be overwhelmed if it feels like your greens are taking over. They will shrink as they cook down.
Then I let the greens boil for about 10-15 minutes. This is called parboiling. When they have gone through this boiling process, pour off that water and add fresh. You do this to take the bitter flavor out of the greens. If you don’t like greens, the bitterness is probably why and parboiling will fix it.
Next, you’ll bring the greens to a boil again and allow them to cook until they are soft and tender. This usually takes about an hour or two. Your time may vary depending upon how many greens you are cooking at a time.
However, I will mention, I like my greens to have flavor. Therefore, I add healthy amounts of bacon grease, dried onion powder, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. I might even add a splash or two of apple cider vinegar if I’m feeling froggy.
So keep in mind that you can change the flavor profile of your greens by what you are adding to them. Don’t be afraid to spice them up!
Once you’ve got your greens all cooked, you can serve them up to enjoy with a meal. But if you have leftovers, feel free to can them. I do every year and enjoy them all year long. That way I can skip all of the boiling when I need a delicious side dish in a hurry.
Instead, I open a can, heat them, and enjoy fresh, flavorful greens anytime I want. Remember, you can freeze turnip greens as well.
Turnip Greens Recipes
Until I was a married woman, I had never tried turnips or turnip greens. We didn’t eat them much growing up.
So I realize there are people out there that don’t know how to fix turnips or turnip greens to where they can actually enjoy them. Which is why I wanted to share some of the internet’s best recipes with you on how to prepare them. That way you’d have a solid recipe to turn to when trying to utilize your harvest.
1. Turnip Au Gratin
I told you early on in this article I was not a fan of turnips. Now that I’ve discovered this recipe I do believe I may have to give it a try.
Hopefully, it will make me retract my statement. If you are feeling uncertain about turnips, then check this recipe out.
2. Roasted Turnips with Balsamic Vinegar and Thyme
This is another recipe for turnips that is sure to pack a flavorful punch. It not only has the strong flavor of the turnip, but you have the even stronger flavor profile of balsamic vinegar and thyme.
If you like bold flavors, then you’ll want to check out this recipe.
3. Southern Turnip Greens
It was a recipe similar to this one that absolutely turned me on to turnip greens. I love the flavors of the south with the pork, onions, and so many other spices included.
So if you like comfort food and are looking for a great way to enjoy your turnip greens, then you must try this recipe.
4. Creamed Turnip Greens
I’ll be the first to admit it. If you cream anything before serving it to me, I’ll probably eat it. The flavors are so delicious in a creamed dish.
So when I saw this recipe for creamed kale (which you can sub turnip greens in kale’s place), I knew it was a winner. If you love creamed veggies too, then you’ll want to check it out.
Well, you now know how to harvest both your turnips and your greens. You also know how you can preserve and store them for later use.
Also, you have 4 fantastic recipes that will help you to utilize your harvest in a delicious way.
But now I want to hear from you. How do you store your turnip green harvest? What do you do with turnips or the greens?
We love hearing from you so please leave us your thoughts in the space below.