How to Store Turnips

Storing turnips properly can significantly extend their freshness and flavor. Turnips, like many root vegetables, can last for quite some time when stored under the right conditions. To maintain their crisp texture and prevent spoilage, it’s important to understand the correct storage techniques. The methods employed will vary depending on the duration of storage required and the space available to you.

Removing the greens from your turnips is a crucial first step, as leaving them attached can accelerate the rotting process. After they’re removed, it’s best to place the root in a cool, moist environment where temperatures are just above freezing, ideally around 32-35 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity. This mimics the natural conditions of a root cellar, the traditional storage method for turnips.

For shorter-term storage, your refrigerator can provide the right conditions. The crisper drawer is often the best spot, as it can help in retaining moisture. For those looking to keep turnips for several months, options range from refrigeration, where they can last for up to five months, to packing them in containers with materials that aid in moisture retention. Each of these strategies will help ensure that your turnips remain as fresh and flavorful as possible until you’re ready to use them.

Understanding Turnips

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Turnips are versatile root vegetables that play a significant role in various cuisines and offer nutritional value. Proper knowledge of their types, nutritional benefits, and storage methods is crucial for maintaining their quality and flavor after harvest.

Types and Varieties of Turnips

Turnips come in several varieties, differing primarily in size, color, and flavor. The root’s diameter usually ranges from 2 to 8 inches. Common types include:

  • Purple Top White Globe: Classic variety with purple and white coloring.
  • Golden Globe: Known for its yellow flesh.
  • Scarlet Queen: A red-skinned variety with a mild taste.

Nutritional Value and Uses

Turnips are a nutritious addition to your diet, providing vital minerals and vitamins. They can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked in soups, stews, roasted, or mashed. Their leaves are also edible and rich in nutrients.

Harvesting Turnips

You should harvest turnips when they are firm and have reached a suitable size, generally 40 to 50 days after planting. Overgrown turnips can become woody and bitter.

Post-Harvest Handling

After harvesting turnips, remove dirt by gently cleaning without causing bruising to the skin. Preparing turnips for storage involves trimming the greens and ensuring the root is dry to prevent mold growth.

Signs of Spoilage

Inspect turnips regularly for signs of spoilage, such as:

  • Soft spots: Indicates the turnip is becoming mushy.
  • Discoloration: Look for unusual dark or light patches.
  • Mold: Usually appears as fuzzy spots.
  • Odor: A strong, unpleasant smell can signal rot.

Short-Term Storage Solutions

When you need to keep turnips fresh for a brief period, paying attention to temperature, humidity, and preparation methods ensures maximum freshness and shelf life.

Refrigerator Storage

Temperature and Humidity: Store your turnips in the refrigerator, where they benefit from a cool environment at a temperature range between 32-40°F (0-4°C) with high humidity, ideally around 95 percent. Air Circulation: Ensure good ventilation to prevent moisture buildup and mold.

Crisper Drawer Method

Crisper Drawer: Utilize the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator for turnip storage. This specialized compartment is designed to maintain adequate moisture levels while offering better air circulation compared to other parts of the refrigerator. Preparation: Wrap the turnips in a damp paper towel and then place them in a perforated plastic bag before storing them in the crisper.

Non-Refrigerated Options

For those without enough refrigerator space, a cool, dark place such as a pantry, basement, or garage is suitable for short-term storage. Ensuring the area is well-ventilated will help in preserving the freshness of your turnips for a few days.

Preparing for Short-Term Storage

Washing and Drying: Before storing turnips, wash and dry them thoroughly to remove dirt, which can hasten spoilage. Skin Integrity: Keep the skin undamaged to protect the inner flesh from moisture loss and microbial attack. Leaf Removal: If your turnips came with greens, remove them to prevent the roots from becoming soft.

Long-Term Storage Techniques

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For optimal long-term storage of turnips, it is crucial to maintain the right temperature and humidity conditions. Ensuring that your turnips are stored properly will keep them fresh for extended periods.

Root Cellar Storing

A root cellar is an excellent environment for storing turnips due to its cool and humid conditions, which are ideal for long-term freshness. Store your turnips in a root cellar at temperatures between 32-40°F (0-4°C) with a humidity level of 90-95%. Be sure to keep them off the ground and use shelves or bins for better air circulation. Remove the greens from the turnip root to prevent moisture loss and decay.

In-Ground Preservation

If you don’t have access to a root cellar, consider in-ground preservation. You can store turnips in the soil where they grew, covering them with a thick layer of straw and a tarp to insulate against freezing temperatures. Only the root should remain buried, and you should periodically check for ventilation and to ensure the soil remains slightly moist but not waterlogged.

Freezing Vegetables

Freezing is a viable option for long-term storage of turnips. Prior to freezing, it’s crucial to blanch the turnips to preserve their texture, taste, and nutritional value. Cut the roots into uniform pieces, blanch for 2-3 minutes, cool them immediately in ice water, then pack them into airtight containers before placing them in the freezer. This method prevents freezer burn and keeps turnips for up to 12 months.

Use of Moist Sand and Sawdust

Storing turnips in moist sand or sawdust efficiently mimics the humid environment of a root cellar and is particularly useful in areas where appropriate storage temperatures are naturally available, like a garage or basement. Bury your turnips in a container filled with clean, moist sand/sawdust to keep the humidity around the turnips high and their environment dark, which contributes to their preservation.

Advanced Storage Ideas

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To maintain the freshness and extend the shelf life of turnips, you can employ several advanced preservation techniques. Each method requires specific conditions and preparation to ensure successful long-term storage.

Pickling and Canning

Pickling your turnips is an ideal way to preserve their crunch and nutritional value for months. Begin by peeling and slicing your turnips, then submerge them in a vinegar-based pickling solution. Seal the turnips in sterile jars and process them in a boiling water canner for long-term storage.

Dehydrating for Preservation

Dehydration removes moisture from turnips, inhibiting microbial growth and extending shelf life. Slice turnips thinly and arrange them in a single layer in your dehydrator. Dehydrate at 125°F until crisp, and store the dried turnips in airtight containers to prevent moisture from creeping back in.

Utilizing Cold Winters

If you experience cold winters, use this to your advantage for turnip storage. Bury turnips in outdoor pits, ensuring insulation with straw and a sturdy cover to protect them from freezing. This outdoor storage mimics the conditions of a root cellar, keeping the turnips cool and extending their freshness.

Creating Ideal Conditions

In your basement or pantry, create an environment that mimics a root cellar. Maintain a cool (just above freezing), dark place with about 95% humidity for optimal preservation conditions. Good air circulation is important, so make sure there is ventilation to prevent mold and rotten turnips.

Assessing Storage Locations

When choosing a storage location, it’s crucial to consider humidity levels, temperature, and risk of pests. Your basement, garage, and pantry can be appropriate if they are consistently cool and have ventilation. Monitor these areas regularly to prevent deterioration like discoloration or mold.

Preventive Measures against Spoilage

To reduce the risk of spoilage, store turnips in storage containers like mesh bags or perforated plastic bags to ensure air circulation. Check your stored turnips regularly, removing any that show signs of spoilage to protect others from deterioration. Keep stored turnips away from ethylene-producing fruits as these can accelerate spoilage.

Uses for Stored Turnips

Stored turnips provide a versatile ingredient for your kitchen, offering a nutritious addition to a variety of dishes. Properly stored, they can be a staple in your diet, contributing both flavor and texture to your meals.

Culinary Applications

Turnips can be incorporated into an array of culinary creations. You can enjoy them boiled, roasted, mashed, or even pickled. They are commonly used to add a starchy quality to soups and stews, serving as a lower-calorie substitute for potatoes.

  • Soups & Stews: Add chunks of firm turnips for a nutritious boost.
  • Mashed: Combine with potatoes for a mixed root vegetable mash.
  • Roasted: Quarter turnips and roast to enhance their natural sweetness.

Preparing Turnips After Storage

Once you retrieve turnips from storage, ensure they are still firm and free from spots. Peeling is optional, but if the skin seems tough, it’s best to peel. Chopping into uniform pieces will ensure even cooking regardless of your chosen method.

Pairing with Other Ingredients

Turnips pair well with both earthy and bitter flavors. For a robust side dish, try combining roasted turnips with mustard greens or radishes. Mashed turnips blend smoothly with butter and cream, enriching their taste.

  • Leafy Greens: Complement mashed turnips with sautéed turnip greens or spinach.
  • Radishes: Add sliced radishes to salads for a peppery contrast.

Turnip Leaves and Greens

Don’t discard the nutritious turnip greens — they can be cooked like any other leafy greens. Whether sautéed, added into salads, or served alongside your turnip preparations, the greens are packed with vitamins and minerals.

  • Sauteed: Cook with garlic and oil for a simple, healthy side.
  • Raw: Young, tender greens are excellent in salads.

Unique Turnip Dishes

Be adventurous and incorporate turnips into unique dishes. Try them pickled as a crunchy condiment or create a turnip and rutabaga gratin for an inventive take on traditional potato dishes.

  • Pickled Turnips: Serve as a garnish or refreshing side.
  • Gratin: Thinly slice and layer with cheese and cream for a rich casserole.

Handling Unused Portions

If you find yourself with excess turnips, don’t fret. They can be preserved through pickling or freezing for later use. Always check your stored turnips regularly and discard any that show signs of spoilage to maintain the quality of your produce.

  • Freezing: Blanch chopped turnips before freezing to retain texture.
  • Pickling: Preserve in vinegar with spices for extended shelf life.

Conclusion

Storing turnips properly is essential to preserve their freshness and extend their longevity. Your turnips should last well if you follow these guidelines:

  • Harvest turnips when they are 2 to 3 inches in diameter for optimal freshness.
  • Remove the greens from the root to prevent them from drawing out moisture and nutrients.
  • Ensure turnips are clean, dry, and free of blemishes before storing.

For refrigeration:

  • Store turnips in a closed container, or wrap them in a damp cloth and place them in the crisping drawer to maintain humidity.

For long-term storage:

  • Place turnips in a cool, dark place such as a cellar, covered with sand to prevent drying out.

When freezing:

  • Blanch turnips before freezing to maintain their quality.

Remember, diligent storage techniques will help keep your turnips in the best condition for cooking and enjoying.

Frequently Asked Questions

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When storing turnips, the key to maintaining their freshness involves proper temperature settings, preservation methods, and the use of certain storage techniques. This FAQ section addresses common concerns and provides clear guidelines for preserving your turnips.

What is the optimal temperature for storing turnips in the refrigerator?

The optimal temperature range for storing turnips in the refrigerator is between 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit. This chilly environment helps keep turnips crisp and fresh for extended periods.

Can turnips be preserved by freezing, and if so, what is the proper method?

Yes, turnips can be preserved by freezing. To do so, blanch diced or sliced turnips for two minutes, plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process, drain, and then freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags.

What techniques are effective for storing turnips through the winter months?

Storing turnips in a cool, moist, and dark place like a root cellar is effective for winter storage. You can also bury them in boxes with clean, moist sand in a cellar which maintains the necessary humidity and coolness.

Is it necessary to refrigerate raw turnips, or can they be stored at room temperature?

For short-term storage, raw turnips can be kept at room temperature in a cool, dark place. However, for longer preservation, refrigeration is recommended.

How long can you expect turnips to remain fresh when stored at room temperature?

When stored at room temperature, turnips can stay fresh for several days. However, this depends on how cool and dark the storage area is. If the environment is warmer or lit, the freshness may be compromised sooner.

What are the best practices for canning turnips to ensure their longevity?

For canning, use a pressure canner and follow the recommended process for low-acid vegetables. Peel and cube turnips, cover them with boiling water, and process according to your canner’s instructions to ensure safety and extend shelf-life.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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