Gilfeather Turnip

The Gilfeather Turnip is on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste and is one of the featured vegetables in the Slow Food USA/Chefs Collaborative Foods at Risk/Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Grow-out taking place in New England. Despite the attempts of developer John Gilfeather to guard his stock and keep propagation to himself, some seeds did make it off of his property, and a few farmers have continued to grow the Gilfeather Turnip after Mr. Gilfeather died.

The Gilfeather is an egg-shaped, rough-skinned root, but unlike its cousins, it has a mild taste that becomes sweet and a creamy white color after the first frost. While the hardy Gilfeather turnip does well in nearly any climate, this touch of frost contributes to its unusual taste and texture. Developed and named after John Gilfeather from Wardsboro, Vermont, this turnip is one of the state’s unique contributions to cold weather agriculture.

Seeds are available from Fedco Seeds, whose site informs us that though the Gilfeather is called a turnip, it is, in fact, a rutabaga. They also say that the greens are tender (we all like a two-for-one vegetable when we can get one), it doesn’t become woody even at larger sizes, and, as mentioned above, tastes better after frost, which is handy as it matures late in the growing season. Why not try it out in your garden? And if not, be sure to be on the look-out for it at farmers markets and participating restaurants later in the year.