Beets, Rutabaga, Turnips, Parsnips. I’ve lumped them together because growing them is mostly the same sort of affair. Same with uses and pests. I promise to single things out when applicable!
Time to Maturity: 50-70 days is average for beets and turnips. Beet leaves can be harvested earlier and small turnip varieties can be closer to 40 days. Parsnips and rutabaga, however, are the sloths of the root-veg world and take a whopping 100-120 days. Four whole months, if you manage to not mistake the seedlings for weeds.
Diseases & Pests: Scab and root rot can be an issue, but by and large this group is hardy and without major issues. Well drained soils help avoid root rot.
Key Words: Look for uniformity in the crop and keep an eye out for size indicators. There aren’t a ton of flavor variations in these types of crops- most are geared towards climate and size. Do think about how you best like to use them and size your crop accordingly.
Use: The person who first roasted root crops is a genius that we should all be thankful for. But beets are lovely pickled or paired with Goat Cheese in just about anything. Turnips can be great in stews. Parsnips make a lovely addition to mashed potatoes. All of them would be great in the bottom of a roasting pan with a delicious chunk of meat roasting atop them.
My Favorites: I love beets but hate how processing them stains everything a murderous shade of red-pink. I tend to favor golden varieties for just this reason, like Touchstone Gold and Golden.
What I’ve Grown in the Past: I desperately want to grow parsnips (Harris Model and Half Long Guernsey) but they never reach a big enough size when I sow them in the spring-no matter how early I do it. A speaker at a seminar I was at last year suggested sowing them just before the ground froze and I intended to do that, but the fall was so wonky it got away from me.
I’m personally very ‘meh’ on turnips and rutabaga so I can’t say that I’ve grown very many. Purple Top White turnip has done well enough for us in past years.
I’ve grown plenty of red-hued beets- all with great success- Bull’s Blood, Detroit Dark Red, Shiraz, Cylindra, Chioggia, Early Wonder, and Crosby’s Egyptian. Its hard to go wrong with any of these varieties and Chioggia cannot be beat (pun intended) on looks.
Now its your turn readers- which of these root crops do you grow and what do you do with rutabaga and turnips! Send recipes!