‘Målselvnepe’ is an old Norwegian landrace of turnip. The landrace has its origin from turnip seeds imported from Russia in the middle of the 19th century. Skilled farmers in the county of Troms have over many years selected good genotypes for further cultivation and through that improved on previous genotypes to give what we know today as the ‘Målselvnepe’. ‘Målselvnepe’ has an excellent but, compared to other turnip varieties, quite strong and distinct taste. It is considered to be a delicacy in the northern part of Norway, where it is mostly eaten raw, as one would, for example, eat an apple. It is also used in different warm dishes; such as stews, soups, stir-fry etc. ‘Målselvnepe’ is cultivated sown directly in the field with about two months to harvest. It is quite a hardy plant, but requires careful management with respect to weeds and insect pests. Harvesting is also quite time-consuming. During the long northern summer days, many turnip varieties quickly bolt. ‘Målselvnepe’ is better adapted to such long day conditions. Turnip cultivation has a long history in Norway. It could be grown all over the country, and was especially appreciated in the north, where the availability of fruit and vegetables was rather limited. Many landraces were over the centuries developed through local cultivation, seed saving and selection. Many of these local varieties have unfortunately disappeared, but a few have been conserved. ’Målselvnepe’ is one of only a few old landraces which are still cultivated. Cultivation of ’Målselvnepe’ is known from the 19th century. It is anticipated that the initial germplasm was from seed imported through the so called pomor trade between the Pomors of Northwest Russia and the people along the coast of Northern Norway. The oldest surviving record of its cultivation is of Tobias Taraldsen at the farm Kvalnes on the island Kvaløya in Troms county. He purchased seeds, probably a number of years before 1850, from the ”farm trader” Cedorph Ebeltoft in Tromsø, who had imported seeds from Russia. In 1865 Ole Enok Olsen from Luneborg in the municipality of Målselv produced seeds of the ’Russian turnip’. At that time this turnip showed substantial variation in shape and colour, but Ol’Enok, as he was called, selected only yellow circular turnips with sunken leaf base for further propagation, and over time the ‘Målselvnepe’ attained its current appearance. The turnip was at that time called the ’Ol’Enok-turnip’, but because it was much used in Målselv and because farmers elsewhere got seeds from here it became known as ’Målselvnepe’. Over the last century, the production of ‘Målselvnepe’ has varied, but it has always been available, e.g. on the market on the town square in the city of Tromsø.
Image: Ulrike Naumann