If they had been turned at a lathe they would scarcely be more smooth and evenly rounded the turnips we see harvested in the faIl for market, or to be stored for winter use. The name, turnip, means "turned." They are flattened, or long and tapering, or globular, but all are round. They would roll over and over, in one direction.
Turnips are first cousins to the cabbages, as the flowers and seeds plainly show. The flavor, too, calls attention to the kinship. Wild turnips were cultivated thousands of years ago to make their roots larger and more tender. The different shapes were later in being developed. White and yellow turnips are the two colors grown. This refers only to the flesh. The skin may be of these colors, or red, gray, or black. Varieties grown for human food are sweet and tender, if they are not checked in growth by drought or lack of tilling. Field turnips, raised for cattle, are usually coarser, not so well-flavored, nor so tender. But all have a higher food value than potatoes, because they have less starch and more flesh-forming elements.
The turnip is not a fleshy root, like the sweet potato, nor a fleshy stem, like kohlrabi, but a combination of root and stem. Notice the clus tered leaves at the top. They are attached to the shortened stem of the plant, which is called the "crown." This stands at the surface of the ground and performs all the stem duties, the part below ground doing duty as the root of the plant.
The English farmer sets more store by his turnip crop than the American farmer, and it is rather hard to understand why. The Cornell Experi ment Station raised 25 tons an acre of cattle turnips in 1904. The soil was a good loam, well cultivated. This crop was harvested four months
after the seed was sown, and the ground was clear for another crop. This is certainly a satisfactory return for the investment of money, time, and labor.
Often farmers prefer to leave the turnips in the ground for stock to crop through the open, mild winter, or even to dig through snow. The whole some green food is so craved by cattle toward spring. Sheep are especially fond of turnips, and they like to dig for them, too.
In digging turnips to store for the winter, farm ers have the leafy tops chopped off before the roots are buried in sand or boxed in the airy root cellar. Delicious "turnip salad" is made of the tender sprouting tops of stored roots, late in winter. Young turnips are also used, tops and all, as a pot herb.
Nobody knows when the wild turnip came into cultivation. But we do know that the Spanish explorers brought them across the sea and estab lished them in Mexico in 1586. They came, too, with the earliest settlers of New England and Virginia. Some early observer wrote that the Jamestown colony raised better turnips than were raised in England, whose gray skies and moist, cool atmosphere are especially adapted to this crop.
There is not much better treatment of the patient British soil, that has borne crops con tinuously for hundreds of years than the "Norfolk rotation," by which turnips, barley, clover, and wheat are the crops that follow each other in order. The crop that most robs the soil, wheat, is pre ceded by clover, the crop that takes nitrogen from the air, and gives it back to the soil.