Saving turnip seeds is quite the commitment to self-sufficiency because turnips are biennial plants, which means that they go to seed in their second year of life. The turnips you eat (or pretend to eat or just nibble at to be polite) are in their first year of life. To save turnip seeds, you have to leave a couple of beautiful looking turnips in the ground overwinter, preferably intentionally rather than forgetting a turnip and discovering it again in the spring. Whoops! That’s certainly never happened to me!
Choose solid looking turnips because their genetics are going to be passed on in the seeds you’ve chosen. Leaving several turnips to overwinter is a better practice because you’ll have stronger genetic variety in your seeds. If the turnips are growing in inconvenient places for next year’s garden, I’ve had good luck moving dormant turnips to better locations in the dead of winter.
In the spring, the turnip will shoot up a gigantic stalk from its base and begin to flower. The flowers are yellow and surprisingly quite pretty for a turnip stalk. I like having the towering behemoth of yellow in my garden. I sometimes have to stake the turnip because it’s become too top heavy and gets buffeted by our Kansas winds. After flowering, the turnip is covered in pods that are about one or two inches long. In the right light, the pods are sometimes translucent, and you can see the pods inside.
The seeds are ready to be harvested when the pods have turned from green to a very crispy and dry brown. Make sure to watch your turnip plant because the pods will split open, and your multiyear effort to harvest your own turnip seeds will end up scattered beneath the plant. That’s my learned-the-hard-way tip from last year.
Harvesting the pods is an easy task. I’m sure there’s other ways to accomplish collecting turnip seeds, but I just walked up to my plant and grabbed a crispified pod. I either slid my fingers down the pod and watched the seeds pop into the bowl or broke off the whole pod into the bowl. I preferred it when the pods complied by popping open rather than coming wholesale into the bowl because than I had more fluff to pick out of the bowl.
The turnip plant still had a few green pods remaining, but I had collected more than enough turnip seeds to last me awhile. In fact, I have plenty to share if anyone wants to plant turnips! What I really need is good recipes for using turnips since they grow so well in my garden!