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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 17 February, 2020

GIY: 'Turnips are perfect for late summer sowing'

Pickled turnips might not sound all that appetising but this is delicious – promise, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

I AM IN two minds about aubergines frankly – I have grown them for years, mainly because they are one of the first things you sow way back in February and I plant them just because there’s so little else to sow at that time of the year.

They are a handsome plant too in the summer polytunnel and produce beautiful flowers.

Another mediocre year of aubergines

We’re spoiled rotten by the lovely shiney, smooth, jet black supermarket aubergines. I’d like to say the ones you grow yourself are far nicer, but I can’t say I’ve grown a decent enough one to be able to compare.

Whatever about their flavour, the supermarket aubergine looks damn impressive. I have only grown decent aubergines once in all the years that I’ve ever grown them, and that year it was almost by accident. I ran out of space in the tunnel and planted them in a grow bag in the potting shed instead and they seemed to do well there.

Every year, I tell myself that I won’t bother with them, but then I am always hankering for things to sow in February and I enter another year of mediocrity with them. This year I have about 5 plants in the big tunnel which I eye with barely disguised contempt daily.


shutterstock_568838515 Source: Brent Hofacker via Shutterstock

I’m a big fan of chillipeppers on the other hand. They also have a tremendously long growing season and were sown from seed way back in February. I find you are best off to hold on to them in pots in the warmth of the house (or in the potting shed) as long as you can.

I planted out about 20 plants in the tunnel in late May and they all died off from the cold nights. Thankfully I had another batch of plants and only planted them out in the tunnel about two weeks ago. They are doing well.

Bell peppers are a little tough to grow well, particularly if you prefer red peppers. All peppers start off green but as they ripen they go red. The problem is that the ripening process takes up a lot of the plant’s energy and so the plant can generally only support ripening a few peppers. You can get lots of small little green peppers if you keep picking them at that stage, but I don’t much see the point of that (when the red ones are so much nicer).

Ultimately I think it’s far better to concentrate on chilli-peppers, which are very prolific – a single, healthy plant can produce 60-100 chilli-peppers. If you didn’t sow a chilli-pepper plant back in February, you could still be on the look out for a plant in a garden centre. If you don’t have a polytunnel or greenhouse, try growing them in a large pot in a sunny kitchen or conservatory.

The Basics – Sow Turnips

Turnips are very easy to grow and because they produce a crop so quickly, they are an ideal candidate for a late-summer sowing. You can even slot them in to a bed that has been freed up by harvesting another vegetable (I generally sow them in the onion bed).

Note that we are talking about turnips here (with the white flesh) as opposed to swedes (yellow flesh) which take much longer to mature – it’s too late now to sow swedes this year.

If you sow turnips now, they will be ready to eat in 6-8 weeks (end September). Harvest when relatively small if possible and don’t leave them in the ground too late in the winter – they will be a target for mice and slugs. The green leaves that grow on top of the turnip can also be eaten. Water well in dry spells to prevent cracking.

Recipe of the Week – White Turnip Pickle

shutterstock_512884651 Source: Alona Slostina via Shutterstock

White turnips don’t store particularly well (unlike swedes), so if you have a glut of them, here’s a great recipe for pickling them (they will last for about 6 weeks in this pickle). Pickled turnips might not sound all that appetising but this is delicious – promise.


  • 900g white turnips
  • 1 medium beet
  • 1 cup dill – chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 8 chili peppers
  • 3.5 cups water
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons salt

Peel the turnips and beetroot and cut them in to ¼ inch slices. Place the turnips, beetroot and dill in sterilised jars and divide the garlic and chili peppers evenly among the jars. Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil and then allow to cool slightly.

Pour it over the vegetables in the jar. Put on the lids and allow them to rest at room temperature for a week, then pop them in the fridge. Eat them within a month.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.


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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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