Rutabaga (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 swedes 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 a biennial plant that grows up to about 12-18 inches in height. A round taproot develops just above the surface after about 3-4 months of the seedling.
Its tough skin features a deep purple color. Rutabagas are different from turnips in being larger and rounder with conspicuous leaf-base scars. Inside, their flesh is yellow, unlike cream-white turnips, 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.
Fresh roots indeed are an excellent source of vitamin-C. 100 g of fresh rutabaga contains about 25 mg, or 42% of daily required levels of vitamin C.
Vitamin-C is a powerful water-soluble antioxidant required by the human body for the synthesis of collagen. It also helps in scavenging of harmful free radicals, prevention from cancers, inflammation, and helps boost immunity.
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||Percent 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 in turnips, which are often sold with top greens, rutabagas are always sold with their greens trimmed.
Select firm, round, medium-sized roots. Avoid those featuring cracks, split, soft, and bruised tubers. Also, ignore large, overmatured roots, since they carry excess fiber content, and therefore, woody and unappetizing.
Rutabaga exhibits a very good shelf life. They can be stacked 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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Food for thought-Hamilton university. pdf.
Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.