Food and Cuisine

Published on September 23rd, 2009 | by Derek Markham


Rutabaga: The Underrated Root Vegetable

If you ask most people if they like rutabagas, you’ll most likely get a blank stare or “A ruta-what?”. It’s just not a hip vegetable (but it sounds cool). If you’re cultivating a local food diet, though, the rutabaga should be high on your list of great storage vegetables to grow and eat.

Image: Wikimedia CommonsRutabaga


The rutabaga is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, and its large root is the main reason for growing it, although the greens are also edible. It has a number of other fun names, like snadgie, tumshie, and neep, and is also referred to as a swede (from Swedish turnip). Rutabagas are rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, as well as magnesium and potassium.

Even if you don’t grow rutabagas, they tend to be readily available at farmers markets and grocery stores in the fall, and because they store well, can be purchased in large quantities for winter eating. Store them as you would any other root vegetable, in a cool dark spot (or in the drawer of your fridge).

You can eat a rutabaga any way you would eat a turnip – you are eating turnips, right? – and this root veggie can be prepared both sweet and savory, from the simple mashed rutabaga to oven fries to the more complex Smashed Rutabagas with Ginger-Roasted Pears. Try them steamed or boiled, with potatoes and carrots, usually topped with butter or milk. I like to start with this basic soup template, substituting with the veggies I have on hand.

Root Soup Recipe Template

  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large rutabaga, peeled and diced
  • 1 bulb of fennel, diced (remove the pithy core by slicing in half first)
  • 2 large potatoes, diced
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 kohlrabi, peeled and diced
  • 2 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 bunch parsley, minced (I prefer flat-leaf parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Paprika to taste

Sauté the onion in olive oil, adding the garlic as the onion carmelizes. Place all of the root vegetables in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a rolling boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and add the parsley and salt. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle or two of paprika. Goes great with a dark bread.

September is International Rutabaga Month, so you can feel some worldly rutabaga kinship if you’re cooking rutabaga any time this month. World peace through vegetables, if you will.

More rutabaga goodness can be found at the Advanced Rutabaga Studies Institute, including the live RutaCam. Besides, if you eat rutabagas, you can be one of the few people who can actually bring it up in casual conversation: “Want to try my rutabaga soup recipe?”

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

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