My brother in law, Roger, used to have a rather large vegetable garden. After a career change, he moved to a city house that did not have the yard for a garden.
Recently I asked him what he missed about growing his own veg. His response puzzled me at first. He said, “I miss being able to eat stuff straight from the ground.” Again I was a little confused. Isn’t all vegetable matter straight from the ground? After a little ferreting out, I realized what he meant.
He misses the root crops. He grew beets, turnips, radish, and carrots primarily. He had the obligatory tomatoes and peppers, but his passion was the roots. Being a southern boy, he also loves greens. The things he had in his garden with the exception of the carrots make nice greens as well.
I must admit, I am only slowly coming around to the root family. My family doesn’t enjoy cooked greens. Until last year, I had only planted carrots and parsnips. This year I have branched out considerably. This is due mostly to the amount of gardening space we are now allocated.
In times past I would have had to have sacrificed something my family loved for something they only tolerated. However, with the new house came new space. Space to stretch my gardening legs. This year I am growing turnips, “Red Top Ideal”, beets, “Chioggia”, and radish, “Spanish Black”, “Philadelphia White”, and “French Breakfast”. These are along with my regular crops of carrots and parsnips.
Root crops are pretty happy crops as a general rule. They really are not fussy or demanding. They like light, well drained soil and they like to be fed pretty frequently. Radish likes a cool head and will spice up on you considerably if it’s too warm. It’s important to make sure you don’t have and rocks or clay clots in your bed. As the root is going down, when they encounter an object, a rock, a clot, a root from a tree, they will either bend around the object, or split and continue growing. This doesn’t change the nutritional value in the least, but it does make for odd shaped harvests. It also makes your plant work a little harder which can lessen your yield a bit.
Again, you can eat these, but they are not ideal and can be avoided with a little prudence ahead of planting.