Boiled as a winter vegetable the roots of the swede are delicious; the young tops can be boiled, too. In districts where the winter is generally too severe for the ordinary turnip, garden varieties of the swede will stand up to any frost. And any reasonably good soil will grow a good crop.
Varieties include Purple-top, Crimson-top, Bronze-top, White. A small packet of seed will suffice, 2,ooo plants being represented in 1 ounce Germination takes about twelve days.
Ready for Use. Roots reach useful size by October and are available until March.
Moisture is one of the chief requirements; in dusty ground the seedlings hang fire. The crop is worth digging 18 in. for; and any rotted leaves that can be spared should be dug in, to improve the moisture-holding quality of the ground’.
When and How to Sow.
From March to June is the usual sowing period, the earlier date being chosen if well-developed roots are wanted by October. These take about seven months to reach useful size.
Seed is sprinkled very thinly in a 1 in. deep drill; if more than one row is needed the drills should be drawn 15 in. apart. The seedlings need early thinning, so that plants stand finally at 1 ft. apart in the row. Labour in thinning out is saved if three or four seeds are dropped in groups 1 ft. apart, instead of being sprinkled in a continuous line. Thinning is then performed speedily, even though every seed produces its seedling.
If water can be given to the seedlings in dry weather it will help them over the danger period – the young stage when the turnip flea beetle and its grubs feed on the leaves. Hoeing frequently close beside the rows will help considerably; it encourages quick growth. Soot dusted over the young plants j when these are damp with dew or after rain, is beneficial, making the foliage distasteful to pests.
Pulling the Roots.
Overgrown roots are tough; the swede is at its best when the roots are of medium size, young and firm and juicy. They should be pulled up as wanted for use in the kitchen.
Storing for Winter.
Swedes take no harm left in the ground all winter, but if the ground is to be cleared for digging the roots can be taken up, the top growth cut off, and stored in a heap of sifted fire ashes in a shed or cellar. Or the roots can be clamped outdoors, as explained under beet.
The green vegetable part of this crop is extremely useful in winter. Three or four roots are pulled up from the open or taken from store – not the best, but the unshapely or undersized ones. Place them in a box, touching, top side up, and dribble soil in the gaps until it is level with the crowns. Place the box in a warm, dark cupboard; or under the greenhouse bench, with another box, inverted, on top to exclude light. Keep the soil just moist (not wet), and new top growth will be produced. The tender leaves can be cut when large enough, for boiling.
Preparing for Table.
Roots should be peeled, with a knife, and cut into 1 in. thick slices, before cooking. Tops should be washed, for boiling. Swedes contain vitamins B and C.