Turnips need to be grown fast – they can be sown just for their greens and the thinnings are delicious in salads
A perfect turnip is small, round and polished white, with a fountain of brilliant green tops and a long tail of a root, and lying in a puddle of melted butter. I am fantasising a little here – this is my perfect turnip, not yours – but I believe that when a turnip is small all that is bitter, sulphurous and mustardy is tamed into something delicious. I could wax lyrical for the rest of this article about what happens to turnips when fermented into torshi, the Balkan and Middle Eastern sour pickles, often dyed pink with slices of beetroot, but that would be indulgent. Instead let’s talk of growing.
Small turnips need to be grown fast, much like radishes, and thus they need good growing conditions. Sow into a layer of well-rotted compost mixed with sand if on heavy soil as they do best in rich, but well-drained conditions. As the saying goes: “Turnips like a dry bed and a wet head”.