Gilfeather Turnip(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
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