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Revised and Updated April 2014

Rutabaga at a Glance
History Medicinal Benefits Name Origin Folklore/Oddities Bibliography
Nutrition Purchasing Preparation Storage Recipes

Rutabaga Recipes below

Not all Swedes live in Sweden. Some reside in the neighborhood food market with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Swede is one nickname given to rutabaga, a root vegetable that looks like a turnip with a sunny disposition. In fact, the rutabaga is sometimes called a yellow turnip.

While the turnip can be traced back to Asia Minor some 4000 years ago, the rutabaga is a relative newcomer to the vegetable world making its appearance in Europe in the 14th Century. (Cambridge)

The rutabaga is a member of the cabbage family and bears the scientific name Brassica napobrabrassica, while its turnip cousin is known as Brassica rapa. (Cambridge) A cross between cabbage and a Swedish turnip, the rutabaga was blessed with its name because the word rutabaga is a variation of rotabagge, the Swedish name for this root vegetable. (Herbst) Vegetable expert, Colin Spencer, believes the rutabaga is a cross between a turnip and a kohlrabi. (Spencer)

Rutabaga If you have the good fortune to pluck a mature rutabaga right from the garden, you'll notice a mass of tangled and twisted, hairy roots at the base of the vegetable that connects to a large base of white flesh. The vegetable, that resembles a turnip with an odd shape, is a little larger at the base. As it becomes narrower at the top, the skin takes on shades of pastel purple, though some varieties wear their purple closer to the root end. The flesh inside is a delicate yellow-orange hue and retains a dense texture much like the turnip.

Raw or cooked, the rutabaga has a flavor reminiscent of turnip but with a richer, slightly more intense quality that hints of cabbage with a subtle sweetness and pleasant fragrance.

The large green leaves that protrude from stems at the top of the vegetable are completely edible with a mild flavor and soft texture similar to turnip greens.

The rutabaga seems to have emerged from Sweden before 1400 A.D., which is why it was called "Swede turnip" or "Swede." (Cambridge)

Spencer says rutabaga began its life in Bohemia in the 17th Century where it became a food for both man and beasts, but mostly for animals during the winter months. The Dutch brought the vegetable from the Netherlands to England in 1735 when it became known as "turnip-rooted cabbage. (Spencer)

Cookbook author and food columnist Bert Greene in his book Greene on Greens credits the rutabaga's birth to Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin who crossbred a cabbage and a turnip in the 17th Century. Greene writes, "The rutabaga traveled to the United States in 1806. It appeared in a seed catalog with the name; "South of the Border Turnip."(Greene) Records show that an acre of rutabagas existed in Illinois in 1817. (Hedrick)

Nineteenth century American agronomist and botanist Edward Lewis Sturtevant compiled extensive notes on species of edible plants. In his Sturtevant's Notes on Edible Plants, he states that Bauhin described rutabaga in 1620 in his work Prodomus and called it napo-brassica. There is no indication that Bauhin did the crossbreeding. (Hedrick)

Name Origin
Over the centuries the rutabaga has had a deep-rooted list of names. The name "rutabaga" is derived from the Swedish word "rotabagge" or "round root." (Herbst) It has commonly been called Swedish turnip, Swede, and Lapland turnip and even Roota-baga and Ruta-baga. The French had four different names for this vegetable: navet de Suede, chou de Suede, chou rutabaga, and chou navet jaune. (Hedrick) Because so many were imported in the US from Canada, they are sometimes called "Canadian turnips." (Cambridge) The rutabaga has even been tagged with the names Russian turnip and Bulgarian turnip. The Spaniards referred to nabo sueco while the Scots simply called them "neeps."(Greene)

The rutabaga is not a hybrid, but is considered a mutation of the turnip. The turnip has 20 chromosomes while the rutabaga has 38. (Root)

Not exactly a nutrition powerhouse, rutabaga comes with a high pedigree for potassium and a good recommendation for vitamin C. It also is a source of magnesium, folate, calcium and phosphorus. (Visual)

Along with its strength in vitamin C and potassium, the rutabaga offers manganese, and is a good source of fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Rutabaga Nutrition (USDA Nutrient Database)
Nutrient Cooked (1 cup cubes) Raw (1 cup cubes)
Calories 51 52
Protein 1.58g 1.51g
Total Fat 0.31g 0.22g
Carbohydrates 11.63g 12.07g
Fiber 3.1g 3.2g
Sugar 6.72g 6.24g
Calcium 31mg 60mg
Iron 0.31mg 0.62mg
Magnesium 17mg 28mg
Phosphorous 70mg 74mg
Potassium 367mg 427mg
Sodium 8mg 17mg
Zinc 0.20mg 0.34mg
Vitamin C 32.0mg 35.0mg
Thiamin 0.139mg 0.126mg
Riboflavin 0.070mg 0.056mg
Niacin 1.216mg 0.980mg
Vitamin B6 0.173 0.140mg
Folate 26mcg 29mcg
Vitamin B12 0.00mcg 0.00mcg
Vitamin A, RAE 0mcg 0mcg
Vitamin A, IU 3 3
Vitamin E 0.41mg 0.42mg
Vitamin D IU 0 0
Vitamin K 0.3mcg 0.4mcg
Fat, saturated 0.049g 0.038g
Fat, monounsaturated 0.046 0.035g
Fat, polyunsaturated 0.161g 0.123g
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg

Medicinal Benefits
Few people would think of keeping a rutabaga in a medicine cabinet, but this cruciferous vegetable is an excellent source of sulfur-containing substances called glucosinolates. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, glucosinolates may help eliminate carcinogens before they can damage DNA or alter certain cell-signaling pathways. In turn, normal cells aren't transformed into cancerous cells. (Livestrong)

A single serving of rutabaga provides about 12% of the daily value of fiber. Fiber is important to colon health, digestion and maintaining a proper metabolic process. (HealthBenefitstimes.com)

Choose firm, solid, smooth ones with unblemished skin, preferably medium sized. Extra large ones over four inches in diameter may be tough and woody and not as sweet.

Rutabagas can be eaten raw or cooked. Because they are often waxed, they should be peeled. Rutabagas can be baked, roasted, boiled, braised, steamed, stir-fried, or microwaved. Cook them with potatoes and mash together. Quarter them and roast along with potatoes. Enhance the flavor of stews with chopped or quartered rutabagas. Dice them and add them to soups.

Peel them with a vegetable peeler. Slice and enjoy as a snack. Chop, dice, or grate them into salads. Grate them into coleslaw or carrot salad.

Cut peeled rutabagas into 1/4-inch slices. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle generously with water. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender.

Quarter rutabagas, brush with vegetable oil, and roast about 1 hour, or until tender.

Place whole rutabaga in boiling water and cook until tender, about 25 to 35 minutes. For sliced rutabagas cook 7 to 10 minutes.

Place sliced or cubed rutabaga in a saucepan. Add vegetable broth to cover the bottom of the pan by 1/2 inch. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Whole or cut rutabaga can be steamed over boiling water for 25 to 35 minutes.

Thinly slice rutabaga and fry until crisp and tender, about 6 to 7 minutes. Stir-fry with onions.

Cube rutabaga and place in a microwaveable baking dish. Add 3 tablespoons of liquid. Cover and cook until tender, about 7 to 9 minutes. Remove and let stand 3 minutes before serving. (Margen)

Cut rutabagas into strips or slices and blanch for 2 minutes in boiling water before freezing. Rutabagas can be cooked and/or pureed before freezing. (Visual)

Rutabagas are good keepers and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 weeks. Unrefrigerated they will keep for about a week. (Margen)

People in the small town of Wardsboro, Vermont gather at the end of October to pay homage to the Gilfeather Turnip. At the Wardsboro Festival all of the dishes served feature this root vegetable that, in spite of its name, is really an heirloom white-fleshed rutabaga. It is called the Gilfeather Turnip in honor of John Gilfeather who marketed it in Vermont and Massachusetts in the early 1900s. To protect his rutabaga, Gilfeather cut the tops and bottoms off his "turnips" to keep others from growing them. (2392Gf) Rutabagas sold in markets today will usually have the tops and bottoms removed.

Ian Neale of the UK holds the Guinness World Record for producing the world's largest swede. Neale, who has been gardening for over 30 years, claimed the prize for a rutabaga that weighed 85.5 pounds. After winning, he didn't cook it up and serve it to friends. Instead, he took it to a local farm and fed it to the livestock.

He also holds the record for the world's largest beet that weighed in at 51.1 pounds. His record-breaking celery clocked in at 52 pounds.

Neale's secret in raising giant vegetables is hard work, like 70 hours a week caring for his plants. (Edwards)

Two cities in the United States pay homage to the rutabaga by holding festivals during August each year to honor this root vegetable.

Askov Minnesota, the former Rutabaga Capitol of the World, is the site of the Askov Fair and Rutabaga Festival that has been a feature of this community since 1913. Locals and visitors munch Aebleskivers and Rutabaga Sausage as they watch the parade, see exhibits,watch the Royalty Coronation, and even play BINGO.

Cumberland, Wisconsin jumped on the rutabaga celebration bandwagon beginning in 1932 and has continued the tradition every August since. Visitors enjoy live entertainment, a pedal tractor pull, pepper-eating contest, basketball shootout, craft show, morning bike tour, and a grand parade. They can even buy rutabagas at the farmers' market.

Today's busy lifestyle often makes us seek out healthy recipes that fall into that easy-to-prepare category. Here are a few rutabaga winners.

Simply cooked rutabagas are so pleasing and flavorful, they need rather little to enhance them. Other seasonings to consider: cinnamon, finely minced garlic, and lemon juice.


Yield: 6 servings

    4 large rutabagas, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    1/8 teaspoon nutmeg plus more for garnish
    Fresh sprig of sage, parsley, cilantro, or dill

  1. Put the rutabagas into a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan, add the salt, and water to cover. Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Decrease the heat to medium and cook about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the rutabagas are fork tender. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Using a potato masher, coarsely mash rutabagas in the saucepan, adding cooking liquid as needed to create a creamy, moist texture.
  3. Add the 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg, and garnish with a sprig of fresh sage.

How wonderful it is to have a repertoire of tasty and satisfying vegetable dishes that are easy and trouble-free to prepare! It's a host's dream when assembling a special meal for guests. Rutabagas are the lesser-known vegetables of the root family, yet they're available year round and are prized for their rich flavor reminiscent of turnips and cabbages. Combined with yams, kale, and raisins, this dish makes an inviting appearance on the buffet table. It's even delicious served cold or room temperature.

Golden Rutabaga Sunset


Yield: 5 to 6 servings

    1 large rutabaga, about 3/4 pound (340g), peeled and coarsely shredded
    1 medium yam, about 1/2 pound (226g), peeled and coarsely shredded
    1 medium onion, sliced vertically into half moons
    1 large leaf kale, rib discarded, chopped into bite size pieces or 2 small bulbs baby bok choy, chopped
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water

    1/2 cup (120 ml) raisins
    Pinch cayenne
    Salt and pepper

    2 tablespoons chopped green onions
    1 sprig fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil)

  1. Combine the rutabaga, yam, onion, and kale in a large deep skillet. Add the water and cook and stir over high heat for 4 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning.
  2. Add the raisins and cayenne, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl or platter and garnish with the green onions and herbs.

Yield: 6 servings

    3 medium rutabagas, peeled and coarsely chopped
    3 medium orange sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
    3 large or 6 small parsnips, peeled and sliced

    Salt and pepper

  1. Because cooking times are different, steam each vegetable separately, testing for softness with a fork. To steam the rutabagas, put them in a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan, cover with water, and cover the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and steam. Follow this same process for the sweet potatoes and parsnips. Rutabagas require about 10 to 12 minutes. Sweet potatoes take about 7 to 10 minutes. The parsnips will cook in about 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a large bowl, reserving the cooking waters.
  3. Using a potato masher, mash the vegetables together. Add 2 or more tablespoons of cooking water as needed to create a chunky or creamy mashed potato consistency as desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The following soup recipe is an exceptionally tasty way to enjoy the special flavors imparted by simmering rutabaga in a flavorful broth. The recipe and enticing photo come with permission from Kelly Ridenhour of
L-O-R-E, a blog on foodlore and folklore that takes one to adventurous places. Kelly kindly allowed us to share her culinary talent with our readers. She adapted the recipe from Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia.

Scented Rutabaga Soup


Yield: 4 servings

    1 bunch scallions

    2 tablespoons coconut oil
    2 small shallots, minced
    2 garlic cloves minced

    3 cups (720 ml) peeled and diced rutabaga
    1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce, divided
    4 star anise
    1/2 teaspoon white pepper

    4 cups (1 liter) vegetable broth (see note)

    3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
    14 ounces (96g) tofu, pressed and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes
    1 scant cup (240 ml) chopped shiitake mushrooms
    1-inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

    Salt to taste
    Scallion greens, red pepper flakes, and rice vinegar for garnishes

  1. Separate the scallion white and green portions and slice each thinly into slivers.
  2. Put the coconut oil into a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and the scallion whites, reserving the greens, and allow them to soften briefly.
  3. Add the rutabaga, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, star anise, and white pepper and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Add the vegetable broth and let simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until the rutabaga is very tender.
  5. While the rutabaga is boiling, put 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden, about 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil, shiitakes, and ginger. Cook about 5 minutes until aromatic and the shiitakes are tender. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce and stir until absorbed.
  6. Remove the star anise from the soup. Transfer the soup to a blender and process until smooth and creamy. Return the soup to the pot and season with salt to taste, if needed.
  7. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and add spoonfuls of the tofu-shiitake mixture into the center. Garnish with the scallion greens, red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of rice vinegar to taste.

Note: Homemade broth made from the peelings of vegetables and mushrooms that you've frozen are ideal.


"2392GF Gilfeather Turnip." Fedco Seeds http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/search.php?item=2392

The American Horticultural Society Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening: Vegetables. Mount Vernon, Virginia: The American Horticultural Society, 1980.

"Askov Rutabaga Festival and Fair." http://www.askovrutabagafestival.com

Crockett, James Underwood and the Editors of Time-Life Books. Vegetables and Fruits. New York: Time-Life Books, 1972

"Cumberland, Wisconsin Rutabaga Festival" Yahoo! Voices http://voices.yahoo.com/cumberland-wisconsin-rutabaga-festival-1758579.html?cat=16

Edwards, Anna. "The SWEDE taste of success for the grower who has produced record breaking 85lb monster vegetable." Daily Mail 13 September, 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2036833/Worlds-largest-SWEDE-Ian-Neales-85lb-record-breaking-vegetable-pictured.html#ixzz2vn7jf3ai

Greene, Bert. Greene on Greens & Grains: Over 850 Incomparable and Inventive Recipes for the Crispiest, Freshest Greens and Most Richly Textured Grains. New York, Tess Press, 2000.

"Health Benefits of Rutabaga." HealthBenefitstimes.com http://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/health-benefits-of-rutabaga/

Hedrick, U.P., ed. Sturtevant's Notes on Edible Plants. Albany: J. B. Lyon, 1919.

Herbst, Sharon Tyler. Food Lover's Companion:Comprehensive Definitions of Nearly 6000 Food, Drink, and Culinary Terms, 3rd ed. New York: Barron's, 2001.

Herman, Judith and Marguerite Shalett Herman, eds. The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook. New York: Harper, 1973.

Ingram, Christine. The Cooks's Encyclopedia of Vegetables. New York: Lorenz Books, 2000.

Kiple, Kenneth F. and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas. The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge: United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Margen, Sheldon and the Editors of the University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter. The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition: How to Buy, Store, and Prepare Every Variety of Fresh Food. New York: Health Letter Associates, 1992.

Root, Waverley. Food: an Authoritative and Visual History and Dictionary of the Foods of the World. New York: Smithmark, 1980.

"Rutabaga Festival." Travel Wisconsin.com http://www.travelwisconsin.com/events/fairs-festivals/rutabaga-festival-42557

Spencer, Colin. The Vegetable Book. New York: Rizzoli, 1996.

Vaughan, J.G. and C. A. Geissler. The New Oxford Book of Plants. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

The Visual Food Encyclopedia. New York: Macmillan, 1996.

Wood, Rebecca. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York: Penguin, 1999.

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