The introduction of
disease-resistant varieties has made this winter
vegetable even easier to grow. All you have to
do is sprinkle some seeds in late spring or early
summer, thin a few weeks later and then lift the
large, globular roots as you need them from autumn
until spring – few other crops are quite
so straightforward. Swedes are closely related
to turnips (the name is an abbreviation of ‘Swedish
turnip’) but the flesh is generally yellow
and the flavour both milder and sweeter. There
are other differences – the plants are hardier,
the yields are greater and the growing period
Expected germination time: 6-10 days
Approximate number per ounce: 8000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 30lb (15kg)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 3 years
Approximate time between sowing and lifting: 20-24
Ease of cultivation: Easy
· Swedes are brassicas and like other members
of the family need a firm, non-acid soil which
has reasonable drainage.
· Pick a sunny spot and dig in autumn.
Lime if necessary. In spring apply Growmore fertilizer
and sprinkle Bromophos if cabbage root fly is
known to be a problem. Prepare the seed bed about
a week later, treading down and raking the surface.
Dig rows ½ in (1cm) deep and sow seed very
thinly then cover with soil. Rows should be 15in
Sowing time: Mid May to Mid July; can begin at
the end of April.
Lifting time: Usually November to February; can
extend from mid September to the end of March.
Looking after the crop
· Thin out the crop as soon as the seedlings
are large enough to handle. Do this in stages
until the plants are 9in (23cm) apart.
· Keep the soil hoed and remember to water
in dry weather – failure to do so will result
in smaller and woodier roots. Rain following a
dry spell can cause roots to split.
· Spray with Crop Saver at the first signs
of flea beetle damage.
· Begin lifting as soon as the roots are
large enough to use. This will be from early autumn
onwards, and there is no need to wait until they
reach their maximum size. You can leave them in
the soil and lift with a fork as required until
spring, but it may be more convenient to lift
and store them indoors in December for later use.
· The storage technique is to twist off
the leaves and place the roots between layers
of dry peat or sand in a stout box. Store in a
Marian: This is the Swede to buy. It has all the
plus points – high yields, good flavour
and texture with the bonus of resistance to club
root and mildew.
Chignecto: Another variety which is resistant
to club root. Many textbooks praise it, but very
few catalogues list it.
Purple Top: The old favourite – reliable
and widely grown. It can be used for eating fresh
from the garden or for storage.
Mancunian Brown Top: Slower growing than Purple
Top, but its storage properties are unexcelled.
Western Perfection: Just the opposite to Mancunian
Brown Top – the reputation of this variety
is based on its quick-growing nature. Roots will
be ready for lifting in September.
Acme: Another purple- topped variety which is
quick growing like Western Perfection.