Paris Goodnight: Turnip seeds are planted, but I don’t know why

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 25, 2022

Planting turnip seeds has become a fall tradition even though I can’t say I really enjoy the harvest a little later in the year.

I started with this project once I realized turnips were about the only thing that grows well as most other vegetables are winding down their time in the garden. Sure, there are other fall crops that more seasoned gardeners put in the ground this time of year, like kale and cabbage and such. But turnips are the one that I remember my grandfather growing and as a kid, I enjoyed the taste of them about as good as anything else that came out of the garden. Of course, my grandfather would cut a slice off a nice sized one and sprinkle a healthy dose of salt on it before he gave it to me. When we started hearing that too much salt was not a good thing, most of the foods that could be prepared without adding more sodium to the diet became the way to go.

That probably cut down on how much I enjoyed the taste of turnips and apples and other things that got a little zest from a sprinkle of salt.

Where I really developed a distaste for turnips was from the smell when my mother would cook them. She always considered them something of a treat with a little vinegar added to the cooked variety. But as a kid, I don’t know that there was any worse smell that ever came out of the kitchen than when a pot of turnips was on the stove. Maybe liver was a worse fare for a kid to see on the evening’s menu, but nothing topped the turnip smell as far as I could tell.

No matter how much we complained, cooked turnips remained in the rotation during certain times of the year.

That’s why I’m surprised that I decided to go ahead and sprinkle the seeds in the backyard plot once I got old enough to enjoy such hobbies. But like a lot of such things, a little age changes your opinion on foods and drinks. Take sweetened tea for instance. I can’t force myself to drink it at full strength these days but I sure loved it the sweeter the better when I was young. Now a little half unsweet, half sweet is about as far as I go.

Even if turnips are the only thing that I’ve planted that will be growing nicely over the next few months, the weeds and thorns seem to never let up. That task of pulling weeds at least gives me something to occupy the daylight hours, as most late nights will be spent at the Post putting pages together. I don’t know that it’s the most aerobic activity, but it seems to be hard work during those 90-degree days that feel like they’ll never end. But we’ve finally got a hint of the cooler seasons ahead with the arrival of a few nights in the 40s. Nothing gets me more excited than watching the temperatures drop to the point where I can open the windows and let the breezes flow through again after all the heat over the summer. I know it won’t last long and we’ll have to transition from running the air conditioner at full blast to turning on the heat shortly, but for a little stretch the perfect temperatures for the Carolinas allows the windows stay open night and day.

That’s also when the turnips seem to grow the best. And since I surely have no one else in my household that would even think of putting such a thing on a plate, I know however many come up, I’ve got to be the one who eats them. So I keep the turnip patch to a relatively small size plot beside the garden section where my tomatoes grew. The last of those plants have just about shriveled up. But right there beside them in the midst of a lot of weeds, I noticed a new plant back during the growing season.

I knew it wasn’t anything I’d put in, but I had a pretty good idea it was a watermelon plant and that was confirmed as I watched a ball grow past the size of a softball and into one closer to a basketball.

I finally decided to pull it, so now it’s waiting in the refrigerator to cool down and then I’ll see if it tastes anything like it’s supposed to. If only I had such luck with the plants I try to grow, but that would be asking too much. And when I do cut into it, I might just do as my grandfather did when I take a taste of it, and sprinkle a little salt on the first bite just for good measure.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.