Rutabaga or cabbage turnips are winter season root vegetables in the cruciferae family. Their sweet, peppery flavor is reminiscences of sweet radishes. They are actually hybrid between wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea) and turnips (Brassica rapa) and cultivated in Sweden for the first time, and therefore popular as Swedes all over the Europe. Both turnips and swede are closely related to each other.
Scientific name: Brassica napus var.napobrassica.
|Rutabaga. Photo courtesy: ilovebutter|
Rutabaga prefers well-drained, sandy soil and cool weather to thrive. It is biennial plant which grows to about 12-18 inches in height. A round, taproot develops just above the ground surface after about 3-4 months of seedling.
Its tough skin features deep purple color. They are distinct from turnips in being large and round in shape with leaf-base scars. Inside, their flesh is yellow unlike turnip's cream white although white flesh rutabaga also exists.
|Size||Larger than turnips||Relatively smaller|
|Shape||Round, a small protrusion near the top of the root to which the leaves are attached.||Oval (horizontally).|
|Color||Uniformly brown. Varieties of turnip-like deep purple collar also seen.||Purple collar near upper end. White all over.|
|Texture||Thick skin, often marked by leafy scales near the stem end.||Relatively thin skin. Smooth surface.|
|Interior||Creamy yellow flesh. White fleshed rutabaga also exists.||White color flesh. Yellow tinged turnips also exist.|
|Flavor||Sweeter and stronger.||Sweet and peppery.|
|Top greens||Smooth, fleshy leaves as in collard greens. Not often preferred in cooking.||Coarse and hairy leaves. Preferred in cooking and pickling.|
|Storage||Long shelf life.||Short shelf life.|
Rutabagas are low-calorie root vegetables; carry just 37 calories per 100 g. Nonetheless, they are very good source of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and dietary fiber.
Being a member of cruciferous vegetables, they carry indole glucosinolate compounds like indole-3-carbinol. The American Cancer Society recommends an increase in cruciferous vegetables to fight against cancer.
The taproot is also a modest source of essential minerals like calcium, copper, iron, potassium, and manganese.
Rutabaga carries relatively more amounts of some of the B-complex group of vitamins than turnips such as folates,thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and thiamin.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.16 g||<1%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.3 g||6%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.160 mg||3%|
|Vitamin A||2 IU||<1%|
|Vitamin C||25 mg||42%|
Fresh rutabaga can be available all around the year in the US markets. Visit nearby farmers markets after the first frost for locally grown sweeter rutabaga. Imported roots are usually wax coated to protect them from losing moisture and shriveling up.
Unlike turnips which often sold with top greens, rutabaga always found their top trimmed. Select firm, round, medium sized roots. Avoid those featuring cracks, split, soft, bruised tubers. Also, pass up large, overmatured roots since they carry excess fiber content, and therefore, woody and unappetizing.
Rutabaga exhibits a very good shelf life. They can be stored in piles at 35 degrees F for up to 6 months. At home, they can be stored in a vegetable box for up to 10 days, and inside the fridge for 3 weeks, unwashed, in a plastic bag.
Rutabagas are popular by the name swedish turnips in the United States. To prepare, just wash them in cold water, peel using a vegetable peeler to remove wax coatings, sand and grit.
They feature delicate sweetness with a hint of both cabbage and turnip flavors. Young roots are especially tender and pleasant to taste. Boiling deepens their color during cooking.
Here are some serving tips:
They can be steamed, boiled or baked, and are particularly good in soups and stews.
Diced and grilled, can be enjoyed with poultry, lamb and pork.
Rutabaga are very nutritious and safe to eat, including in children pregnant women.
Like in other Brassica family vegetables, rutabaga contains very small amount oxalic acid (0.03 g per 100 g), a naturally-occurring substance found in some vegetables belonging to Brassica family, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the kidneys and urinary tract in some people. Adequate intake of water is advised to maintain normal urine output in these individuals to minimize the stone risk.
Rutabagas may contain goitrogens, a plant-based compounds found in cruciferous family vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. Goitrogens may cause swelling of the thyroid gland, and should be avoided in individuals with thyroid dysfunction. However, they may be used liberally in healthy persons. (Medical disclaimer).
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