(85 days) Brassica napus x Brassica rapa Open-pollinated. This white-fleshed heirloom has put Wardsboro, Vt., (population 900) on the culinary map. Every October, Wardsboro hosts a festival at which Gilfeather is served in all the dishes. Although it has come down in folklore as a turnip, it is really an interspecies cross between a rutabaga and a true turnip, big-knobbed and bulky with small hairy tendrils growing on its light green skin. It was either developed or discovered by John Gilfeather (1865-1944) of Wardsboro in the late 1800s. He sold them by the cartload in Brattleboro, Vt., and Northhampton, Mass., in the early 1900s. Although Gilfeather is said to have cut the tops and bottoms off his turnips so no one else could propagate them, some seeds escaped to market growers William and Mary Lou Schmidt, who salvaged, multiplied and commercialized them.
Sweeter and later to mature than other turnips, not woody even at softball size, and taste better after frost. “Smooth, sweet, silky—we love it mashed with carrots and a small potato,” said Susan Lowry of Fryeburg, Maine. Amy Burke of York, Maine, suggested adding Gilfeather to our season-extending greens list. At the end of January she found them even hardier than Red Russian and Beedy’s Camden kales. Listed on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. Cold-hardy through at least part of the Maine winter.①
2392 Gilfeather Turnip
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Turnips & Rutabagas
⅛ oz packet sows almost 40 ft; 1 oz about 300 ft. ~8,000-14,000 seeds/oz.
Culture: Hardy members of Cabbage family. Thinning is critical for full-sized roots. Turnips have a shorter growing season and are not as cold-hardy or as good keepers as rutabagas. Turnips are best picked before they get large and fibrous. Rutabagas, also known as Swedish turnips or Swedes, form enlarged roots above ground with a finely branched system below.
Minimum germination temperature for turnips 40°, optimal range 60-95°.
Disease: DM: Downy Mildew
Note: We cannot ship packets greater than ½ oz. (14 grams) of rutabagas or turnips into the Willamette Valley. The State of Oregon prohibits shipping any commercial quantity of untreated Brassica, Raphanus or Sinapis because of a quarantine to control Blackleg.