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:
• Roasted and served with meat in a casserole called "lanttulaatikko."
Sweden & Norway
• Cooked and mashed with potatoes and carrots in "rotmos" (root mash.)
• Rutabaga and potatoes are boiled and mashed separately to make a dish called "tatties and neeps."
• 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)