Ingredient Spotlight: What's a Rutabaga?

Perhaps you've passed that section of the produce aisle in your local grocery store where they have the vegetables that most people don't know how to cook. Vegetables like celery root, parsnips, turnips, and rutabaga.

Although rutabagas have been grown in America for over 200 years, they remain uncommon to American palates, which is a shame. This vegetable is high in nutrients, including beta carotene, is easy to prepare, and has a sweet taste. Rutabagas are much larger than the purple and white turnips we see in the store. This humble root looks like an oversized yellow turnip that has a dark purple top. It also smells like a turnip, but turns a golden yellow when cooked. It can keep for several weeks in the crisper drawer or months in a root cellar. They are a cross between a wild cabbage and a turnip. They are also called a Swedish turnip or a yellow turnip. In England, Australia, and New Zealand, a rutabaga is called a swede. Originally from Northern Europe, it was a popular food for a long time, until after World War I. After the war, rutabagas were one of the few fresh foods available, and people got tired of eating them. As a result, rutabagas got an unfair reputation as a "famine food."

Select rutabagas that are firm and heavy, with no holes or bruises. To prepare, simply trim the ends and peel off the skin with a vegetable peeler. The rutabaga can be boiled and mashed, roasted, grated raw into salads, and cooked into soups. Here are some ways rutabaga is enjoyed around the world:

Finland
• Roasted and served with meat in a casserole called "lanttulaatikko."
• Soups

Sweden & Norway
• Cooked and mashed with potatoes and carrots in "rotmos" (root mash.)

Scotland
• Rutabaga and potatoes are boiled and mashed separately to make a dish called "tatties and neeps."

Canada
• Baked in meat pies

Some rutabaga recipes to try:
Smoked Paprika and Rutabaga Bisque - Chowhound
Rutabaga Puff - About.com Southern Food
Rutabaga Apple Scallop - About.com Southern Food
Carrots and Rutabagas with Lemon and Honey - Bon Appetit
Hearty Rutabaga, Turnip, and Carrot Soup - Bon Appetit

(Image: Kathryn Hill)

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