Question: Are purple top turnips going out of style? I only saw white ones at the grocery store last week. Can white turnips be used the same way?
Answer: They are not out of style. Indeed, the most well-known turnip in America is a very old (probably pre-1880) variety with the long but perfectly descriptive name of "Purple Top White Globe." Perhaps the store was dealing with suppliers who could only provide white ones last week.
There are differences in texture and flavor between turnip varieties, but you can use them all in basically the same way. Smaller and younger turnips of all varieties are more tender and sweeter than the larger, older ones.
Don’t hesitate to try a different kind if you can’t find what you are familiar with. There are also turnips with green tops and some with red skin that look like giant radishes. Georgia farmers grow all types. You may find the less common ones at farmers markets in the fall, winter and early spring.
Q: Someone told me about a “fruit cocktail” tree that bears several kinds of fruits. How is this possible?
A: It is possible to create such a tree using the ancient art of grafting. This is done with similar trees, usually within the same genus. The orchardist or gardener will take buds from one or more trees and graft them onto a similar tree. Ideally, the buds will grow into branches, each branch bearing a different fruit. For example, plums, nectarines, peaches and apricots are all members of the genus Prunus and are compatible. This is also done with citrus, allowing a homeowner in southern California to have one tree that produces lemons, limes, tangelos, grapefruits and oranges.
These are sometimes marketed as “fruit cocktail” or “fruit salad” trees. They are mainly novelties.
Grafting may also be used to put different varieties of one fruit onto one tree. That way you could have one apple tree with separate limbs bearing Winesap, Golden Delicious, Arkansas Black or other varieties. This is also primarily done as a novelty, but may have a more practical purpose if one apple variety needs pollen from a different variety in order to set a good crop. Someone with a lot of room may plant two different apples, but someone with room for only one may graft a good pollen source onto the main tree.
Q: Seed catalogs label some tomato varieties as "determinate." What does that mean?
A: Determinate varieties of tomatoes are more compact than indeterminate varieties. They “top out” (stop growing taller) when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud. They ripen all their tomatoes at or near the same time, usually over a few weeks.
Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called "vining" tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost in the fall and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although six feet is more common. They will bloom and set fruit throughout the growing season.
If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.