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Rainbow Roots - Colorful Root Crops to Grow in WV

A bunch of red and white radishes.

Many West Virginia gardeners grow traditional garden vegetables, such as beans, corn and tomatoes, as well as common root crops, like potatoes. And recently, a variety of  new and unexpected colored vegetables have come to market for home gardeners to try and enjoy.

If gardeners are looking to add more color to their garden harvest, there are several bright and unique options that growers might not think about because their produce develops beneath the soil. In addition to potatoes, other root vegetables like radishes and turnips are an excellent choice for gardeners and come in a range of colors.

Colorful and flavor-filled varieties of radishes include Cherriette, Easter Egg radish mix, Purple Plum and Watermelon. The Cherriette is a bright red. For the widest variety of colors, the Easter Egg radish mix offers shades of red, yellow, purple and white. For the purple fans, the Purple Plum variety will provide the rich color of its namesake fruit. The Watermelon radish gets its name from its bright pink interior with a whiteish-green skin that resembles the sweet summer fruit.

To try new varieties of turnips, we recommend Tokyo White.

For a successful crop, plant radish and turnip seeds 1 to  2 inches apart in rows that are 18 to 30 inches apart. As  turnips sprout, thin to leave an 8-inch spacing between plants. Plant turnip seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep and thin to ½ to 1 inch between plants. If broadcasting, thin to 2 to 3 inches apart.

For a continuous harvest of radishes and turnips, sow the seeds every two weeks beginning in April through late summer. Radishes are typically seeded in spring and late summer since they grow best in cool weather. Turnips can be seeded from spring through later summer. The flavor of turnips can be enhanced by harvesting after the plants have been exposed  to a light frost.

By Evan Wilson WVU Extension Agent – Cabell and Wayne Counties