The bounty of the season: Articles on farmers and food artisans
In Eastham, turnips are a town treasure: Redberry Farm – Eastham
Every fall, the community of Eastham attracts lots of attention for a seemingly unusual reason: turnips. According to Bob Wells, owner of Redberry Farm, there is much speculation about the true origin of Eastham turnips, but by most accounts the variety was first developed in town during the mid-1800s, and has grown into a community staple ever since.
Eastham turnips are known for their sweet flavor and lack of any bitter aftertaste. Wells would know, as he and his wife, Connie, grow thousands of the root vegetables on their five-acre farm every year. “Eastham turnips are a lot sweeter than regular turnips,” Bob says. “They grow well in the town’s sandy soil, and they don’t really have the radish-like aftertaste that is typical of other turnips.” Eastham turnips are typically white with a purple crown, and often grow to uncommonly large sizes. They pair well with potatoes to make a turnip-potato gratin, and their sweetness is the star ingredient in an Eastham turnip pie.
The Wells began their farm in 2005, and, at the advice of a friend, started growing their own Eastham turnips a few years later. Though turnips are popular in town, Wells says there’s a shortage of local farmers that are currently growing them. Seeing the demand, the couple set out to not only become one of the few local suppliers, but also join the ranks of farmers committed to organic practices. Redberry Farm’s turnips, as well as their blueberries, market vegetables and cut flowers, are all grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Bob has even created a machine that transforms waste wood into biochar, a soil amendment used to enrich infertile land and soak up greenhouse gases. “It helps turn our Cape Cod sand into productive, healthy soil,” says Bob, who adds that the invention helps his farm grow the turnips in ideal soil conditions—without wasting energy or polluting the surrounding area.
Redberry Farm sells its produce at the annual Eastham Turnip Festival, and what’s left goes to local grocery stores. –Allyson Plessner
For more information on Redberry Farm, call 508-255-3688, or visit newenglandbiochar.com.
Bonus online recipes: Turnip Pie & Eastham Turnip and Mushroom Gratin
Insider’s events on the Outer Cape:
Eastham Windmill Weekend • September 8-10 • easthamwindmillweekend.org
Truro Treasures Weekend • September 22-24 • trurotreasures.org
Eastham Turnip Festival • November 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. • easthamlibrary.org
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