grow your own swedes

Grow your own

Grown your own swedes and turnips. Delicious in soups, mashed and roasted, swedes and turnips are hearty must-grow winter vegetables By Piers Warren

Swede is also known as rutabaga, Swedish turnip or yellow turnip. They were originally produced by crossing cabbages with white turnips and are hardy plants that taste sweeter after a frost.

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Recommended varieties
Swede Yellow Friesian: A traditional swede with delicious yellow flesh.
Swede Lomond: Easy to grow with good disease resistance.

Sow the seeds in April and thin or plant out 20cm apart a couple of months later. If plants grow poorly, and/or wilt and die, they may have been attacked by cabbage root fly. The white larvae of the fly burrow down to eat the roots of the young plants — they can ruin entire swede roots.

Practicing crop rotation will help reduce the incidence of this; crops can also be protected with horticultural fleece. Otherwise, you can make collars for individual plants using a circle of cardboard, about 12cm across, placed at soil level around the stem of each plant. This prevents the fly laying eggs near enough to the swede.

Swede roots can be dug up as soon as they are large enough to use. They are very hardy and can be left in the soil until required. Expect to be harvesting from September to March. Try eating the yellow flesh from the roots mashed with carrots. Cut into chunks and boil until soft, drain, add seasoning but no liquid, mash or blend. Swede also goes well in winter stews in small cubes.

Storage: If hard frosts are expected, pull up and gently remove the soil from undamaged roots. Twist off the foliage and pack the roots in damp sand in boxes — store in a cool, frost-free building. To freeze swede, wash, trim and cut into chunks before blanching for three minutes. Cool and freeze in plastic bags. To cook from frozen, boil for about eight minutes.

Turnips grow quickly and can be used to fill gaps between other slower-growing vegetables on the plot.

Recommended varieties
Purple Top Milan: Quick to mature. Sow in March for an early crop.
White Globe: Smooth roots with white tender flesh.
Golden Ball: Round golden roots with yellow flesh, stores well.

Sow the seeds from April through to July and thin or plant out 20cm apart a couple of months later.

Plants that grow poorly, and/or wilt and die, may have been attacked by cabbage root fly. The white larvae of the fly burrow down to eat the roots of the young plants. Crop rotation will help reduce the incidence of this; plants can also be protected with horticultural fleece. Otherwise, you can make collars for individual plants using a circle of cardboard, about 12cm across, placed at soil level around the stem of each turnip. This prevents the fly laying eggs near enough to the plant.

Turnips are not fully frost-hardy, so later sowings should be lifted and stored before winter. To avoid woodiness, the roots should be pulled when they reach no more than about 5cm in diameter. Turnips can be steamed, stir-fried, mashed or roasted. The young leaves can also be harvested and eaten like spring greens.

Storage: Harvested turnips will keep fresh in the fridge for several weeks. For longer storage gently remove the soil from undamaged roots, twist off the foliage and pack the roots in damp sand in boxes. Store in a cool, frost-free building. They can also be frozen: wash, trim and cut into chunks before blanching for 3 minutes. Cool and freeze in plastic bags. To cook from frozen, boil for about 8 minutes.

 

Piers Warren is the co-author (with his daughter, Ella Bee Glendining) of The Vegan Cook & Gardener: Growing, Storing and Cooking Delicious Healthy Food all Year Round available from veganorganic.net

VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.