Gold Ball Turnips

Turnip Gold Ball1

Turnip Gold BallYou might not think of a turnip the way you do a carrot, but you could.

Turnips can be eaten raw or cooked. Like a carrot, the turnip can be boiled or steamed. You can serve them in soups and stews or puréed, stuffed or braised.

There are two seasons of the year when turnips are worth their weight in gold, that’s in the spring and in the fall. The fall harvest can last well into winter.

The Gold Ball Turnip has been long noted for its flavor, slightly sweet and smooth with an aftertaste of almond.

The late fall harvest particularly favors the Gold Ball which like most good tasting turnips comes to maturity during the times of the year when the outside temperatures tend to stay uniformly cool. That’s fall and spring. (Summer heat can make almost all turnips tough and bitter tasting.)

Like its name suggests, the Gold Ball has a golden-yellow skin and flesh. At maturity, it is about the size of a small ball, not more than 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. Like all turnips, if harvested at half its mature size, it will be the most mellow tasting.

The exact origin of the Gold Ball is unclear, but it is an old-time variety that dates back at least to the early 19th century in Scotland and the North of England. It was registered in the United States patent office in 1855 as Robertson’s Gold Ball.

Turnips, in general, have been in cultivation for more than 4,000 years and probably originated in the Near East. The Greeks and Romans were known to have developed several varieties. Besides the root, turnip leaves can be eaten much like spinach.

Choose. If you want the best tasting turnips, select small turnips—no bigger than 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter–with unblemished skin and fresh, green leaves. The flesh of larger turnips can be woody. A turnip should feel heavy for it size.

Store. Turnips can be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to 1 week.

Serve raw. Raw turnips can be shredded with cabbage and carrots and served with a sharp mustard vinaigrette. Young turnips can be sliced raw and added to salads or served as substitutes for radishes.

Cook. Steamed and boiled turnips can be served with butter or cream. You can add sugar to the water to improve the flavor. You should allow 10 to 15 minutes when boiling turnips and slightly longer when steaming them.

Pair Gold Ball turnips with carrots. The taste is excellent.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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