Gilfeather Turnip - Organic


Gilfeather Turnip - Organic

Brassica napus x Brassica rapa
(85 days) 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. 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 the lanky and secretive 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.

After a New England-based seed saver wrote us to inquire about the genetic lineage of this beloved variety, we chatted with Will Bonsall about whether Gilfeather is a rutabaga or the result of a backcrossing. “The rutabaga is an interspecific hybrid cross of true turnip, Brassica rapa, with the wild colewort …B. oleracea,” said Will. He elaborated that a backcrossing between a rutabaga and a turnip is very unlikely, making Gilfeather, “a somewhat more primitive and unrefined rutabaga unlike the more highly bred, more even-shaped varieties.”

Sweeter and later to mature than other rutabagas, 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.

OGThis item is certified organic

2393 Gilfeather Turnip - Organic
Item Discounted
A: 1/16oz for $4.00  
B: 1/4oz for $8.50  
C: 1oz for $17.50  
D: 4oz for $53.00  

Additional Information

Turnips & Rutabagas

  • About 6,000-12,000 seeds/oz.
  • open-pollinated except where noted
  • Days to maturity are from emergence after direct seeding.

    Culture: Minimum germination temperature 40°, optimal range 60-85°. Direct seed at 1 seed per inch, sown in rows 1–2' apart. Thin to 2" apart for small salad turnips, and 3–4" for full-sized roots. Turnips have a shorter growing season and are not as cold-hardy or as good keepers as rutabagas. Turnips are best picked before they get large and fibrous. Rutabagas, also known as Swedish turnips or Swedes, form enlarged roots above ground with a finely branched system below.

    Disease: DM: Downy Mildew

    Note: Because of quarantine, we cannot ship rutabagas and turnips in packets greater than ½ oz. (14 grams) into the Willamette Valley of Oregon except those that have tested negative for Black Leg and Black Rot.

    Insect Pest: Adult Cabbage Fly, Delia spp., (AKA cabbage root fly, turnip fly) lay their eggs near the base of the main stem of brassica roots. The maggot can damage your root crop. Row cover can exclude the adult flies from laying eggs. Long crop rotation between brassica crops and thorough incorporation of all crop debris in fall reduces the overwintering maggots and interrupts the generational cycle. Old-timers in Maine always made the seed bed as clean as possible, with no visible organic matter, and avoided sowing fall turnips and rutabagas until after July 4. A late crop is better than a wormy one!

Germination Testing

For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.

Our Seeds are Non-GMO

All of our seeds are non-GMO, and free of neonicotinoids and fungicides. Fedco is one of the original companies to sign the Safe Seed Pledge.