You Say Swede, I Say Rutabaga

rutabagaAh, the rutabaga (or swede in the U.K.). They’re ugly. They’re hard to cut into. They’re hard to peel. Most people don’t have a clue what they are. So why bother? Because cooked properly, this ugly vegetable can be really delicious.

I was first introduced to this vegetable as a young girl. My mother was raised in a rural area that had the right type of soil for growing all kinds of root vegetables. In addition to growing carrots and potatoes, most of the local farmers also grew rutabaga.

Every Sunday, my mother served an old fashioned dinner complete with a roast beef or chicken, all kinds of veggies and salad, and always, there would be mashed rutabaga in a small bowl next to the mashed potatoes. My father would mix his mashed rutabaga with the mashed potatoes, while my mother would eat them separately. This was the only way I had ever heard of using rutabaga.

As a young adult, I one day decided to replicate one of my mother’s Sunday dinners. Yikes! First, the rutabaga was hard to find in the local grocery store, and they were enormous. Then, of course, the checkout clerk had no idea what the thing was (and that’s still true for most clerks today). Then, when I got home, I discovered just how very hard it was to cut open. I ended up using a cleaver, and sort of pounding up and down on a cutting board until it finally split in half. While it was tasty, all of the effort put me off rutabagas for years.

Then, about five years ago, I had some marvelous chicken vegetable soup in a restaurant. It had big chunks of chicken, and chunks of wonderful vegetables. But the tastiest vegetable, and the one that really made the soup, was this orangish, almost sweet tasting veggie. I finally asked the waiter what it was. He didn’t know, and checked with the chef, who informed him that it was a rutabaga! What a revelation. I could use rutabagas in more ways than mashed, with mashed potatoes.

Since then, I’ve been cooking them on a fairly regular basis, in a variety of ways. I discovered that they’re marvelous raw with veggie dip. They’re also very tasty when roasted with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. But my very favorite ways to use them are as additions to soups and stews. I pretty much add chunks of rutabaga to any type of soup I make (vegetable, chicken, even bean).

I have learned to avoid buying the very large ones. I generally go for ones that aren’t a whole lot larger than a softball. They’re much easier to cut into pieces. I recently learned that they’re part of the turnip family, which was a big shock to me, because I’ve never cooked a turnip. Now I’m thinking I should probably give turnips a try as well.

Do you ever make rutabaga? If so, what are some of your favorite recipes?


9 thoughts on “You Say Swede, I Say Rutabaga

  1. Margaret

    We’ve always called them turnips (in my part of Ontario). My sister likes them boiled, mashed with a little butter and brown sugar. I prefer them without sugar, but a little salt and butter added. I find the easiest way to prepare is to cut it into discs about an inch thick, peel the skin, and chop however you like. I like them added to potatoes as well.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. LinnieGayl AAR Post author

    Margaret, interesting that you call them turnips. I’ve never heard of having them with brown sugar. Your way of preparing them (cutting into discs) sounds really good. It would definitely be easier to peel them that way.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. Missie

    I don’t think I’ve ever had any rutabaga — and I never knew rutabagas = Swede. I like turnips okay, but I never think to get them or fix them.

    I don’t even know that I’ve ever seen rutabagas for sale in the groceries here, but then again, I’ve not looked for them, either.

    Hmmm. I might have to seek some out.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  4. Lynette

    I think I’m right in saying the Scots call swedes turnips (or neeps). Great with tatties (potatoes) and haggis on Burns Night!
    I adore swede especially mashed with butter and black pepper. I could eat a bowl of it.
    Turnips in England are small round white vegetables that, frankly, don’t have a lot of flavour but are good to add to stews etc.
    You can buy swede and turnips all year round here in the UK.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  5. Jill B

    I really love parsnips mashed with Yukon Gold potatoes, but I have never tried it with rutabaga. Are they sweet like parsnips, or do they have a different flavor? Now I will have to look for them at the grocery store.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  6. SusiB

    I’m from Germany, and I remember wondering what a rutabaga was for a very long time! This was in the 1980s, when I first started reading American romance novels. One of these novels had a heroine who liked to do sketches and drawings of all kinds of things, and one of those things was a rutabaga. No dictionary in my hometown’s library listed this word, and it was years later when I found out that the heroine had been drawing some kind of turnip!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  7. LinnieGayl AAR Post author

    JillB, they’re definitely not as sweet as parsnips, but can have a mildly sweet taste.

    SusiB, how funny. Now you have me wondering what novel that was, because something about it sounds familiar!

      (Quote)  (Reply)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>