Friday, 5 November 2010
We grew several varieties of turnips this year, and overall they only did okay. No surprise; they like cool weather and steady moisture, and we had heat and drought all the way. However, the Goldana turnips we planted in the late summer are now ready, and they are really quite good. Perhaps just a little denser and stronger than ideal. Turnips in general are better planted in the early spring and harvested before it gets too hot, or planted in the mid to late summer for autumn harvest; something we will need to keep in mind. The do grow very quickly, being ready in about 60 days from planting, although our fall planted ones were a bit slower.
It's very hard to find much information about Goldana turnips. All the seed catalogues regurgitate 1 of 2 descriptions which one assumes were written by the ultimate seed suppliers and which suggests that there aren't too many out there. Well after all, turnips in general are not as popular as they used to be and yellow turnips in particular seem to be practically unknown these days. (Unless you're talking about rutabaga, but I'm not. I'm talking turnips here.) I don't think I've ever seen them for sale. However, they're a pretty old vegetable.
William Woys Weaver notes in "Heirloom Vegetable Gardening" that Roberton's Golden Ball turnips appeared in the Album Vilmorin of 1854. (Vilmorin was a well-known French seed supplier who wrote the book on 19thC European vegetables.) This turnip was also available over the years as Orange Jelly turnip or Gold Ball turnip. The supplier I bought it from (William Dam) describes Goldana as a "re-selected and improved Gold Ball type, same great taste, just better looking."
They are indeed very attractive, with creamy butter-coloured flesh and a nice round shape. The ones in the picture above are about 3" in diameter, and that's as big as they should get. Those ones went into a braised lamb shank dish. The ones we grew in the early summer were like a milder version of rutabaga, but still with some distinctive turnipy bite. The fall harvest is even better; the slightly smaller ones are good enough to eat out of hand like an apple, although they should be peeled first. Turnip peels do tend to be strong and woody. The flavour is almost perfumy, in a good way, and they are so crunchy and juicy. Weaver say (of Golden Ball), "It has an unexpected and pleasant aftertaste of bitter almond, very sweet and mild. It is probably one of the finest of all the culinary turnips and is excellent when paired with carrots." I don't know about the bitter almond part, but the rest is quite true.
They were very easy to grow. We planted them; they came up within a week and just grew steadily from there, asking no more than a few regular good soaks. They don't have a lot of pests. They may be damaged by aphids or flea-beetles (worst in the spring), although I'm happy to report we didn't have any problems with either of those. We did have some slight problems with what I believe are cabbage root maggots. So far nothing too bad that I can't just trim around, but I can see I'll need to do some research on controlling them.
I don't know why these are so uncommon nowadays. They are a really delightful vegetable, and we will be growing them again and in larger quantities.