Growing and Saving the Seed of Turnips

Latin name Brassica rapa, turnips are a tasty root vegetable and member of the Brassicaceae, or cabbage, family. There are many varieties of turnips with different culinary use, from the meaty European-style turnip to the delicious Japanese salad turnips, which can be eaten raw or cooked and have taken the culinary world by storm in recent years.



The turnip is believed to have originated in Western Asia and Europe. The turnip's humble history dates back to ancient times as both an animal feed crop and for human consumption. Ancient Celtic cultures used to carve a turnip and place a burning coal inside it to ward off evil spirits. Immigrants carried this tradition to America and adopted the native pumpkin for carving. The quick-maturing, thin-skinned Japanese salad turnips are a newer heirloom type. They were developed in Japan during World War II, when qualities like quick maturity became paramount for vegetable breeding.


  • Culinary
  • Market farming
  • Edible greens, edible roots
  • Storage crop, fodder crop, cover crop




  • Direct seed, 1/4 inch deep, in bands 2-4 inches wide with seeds 1-2 inches apart depending on desired size.
  • Sow in late winter-early spring, and again in late summer for fall harvest.


  • Final spacing will depend on your variety. The Asian salad style turnips can be thinned to 1-2 inches apart, while the larger, longer-season turnips will be thinned to 3-5 inches apart.
  • Roots are best harvested in cool weather.
  • Turnip greens are versatile and can be harvested as needed. Harvest for baby roots or fresh salad type turnips at 30 days or when roots are golf ball to clementine sized.
  • For long shelf life, allow at least 40- 50 days before harvesting.
  • Best harvested and grown when temps are below 75 F.


  • Flea beetles are a common pest of turnips; the extent of damage will range and may just leave the greens damaged. If you wish to avoid flea beetles, place a floating row cover over beds before the seedlings emerge.


  • Leave in ground and allow the plant to go to flower. The flower stalks will soon mature into seed pods. Watch your pods dilligently and harvest as soon as seed pods are brown and dry, as seed pods will open and release seeds within just a few days of drying completely.
  • Place harvested seed pods in a paper bag and use your hands to break them open, separate seeds from chaff, and store.
  • Seeds should not need further drying.