Rutabagas, Cabbages and Turnips! Oh, My!
For many shoppers the rutabaga is a mystery food, a little-known member of the vegetable family that is a cross between the turnip and cabbage. In most areas of the world this vegetable is called a “swede,” or yellow turnip, but here in our country we have given it the title of rutabaga.
It may be used in recipes as a tasty alternative to the turnip. Shoppers often confuse the two vegetables, although rutabagas are sweeter and do not taste as peppery as turnips. Their inside flesh has a yellow-orange color with a dense texture similar to that of the turnip. However, its flavor is more intense and hints of the sweetness of cabbage. The rutabaga’s leaves are entirely edible with a mild flavor and soft texture much like turnip greens.
When selecting your rutabaga, make sure you choose one that is firm and smooth-skinned, as well as solid to the touch. It should feel heavy for its size, with the root and stem ends intact. Avoid those that are soft or have wrinkled skin or cracks. If you lean toward the theory that larger is better, the rutabaga you select may be tough and woody with less sweetness. Choose a medium-sized “swede” whenever possible. Place the unwashed vegetable in an airtight plastic bag and store in the coldest section of the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to three weeks. If not refrigerated, it will last for about a week.
Rutabagas can be baked, roasted, braised, steamed, stir-fried, microwaved and boiled. When boiling, follow this helpful tip: Lift the lid to release the gases, which have an unpleasant odor. Releasing the gases causes the rutabaga to taste better. There are a variety of ways to introduce this flavorful vegetable to your family or guests. Cook them with potatoes, either roasted or mashed; add them to stews and soups; or use as a delicious addition to salads. They add a unique taste when grated into coleslaw or a carrot salad. Adding cinnamon, minced garlic or lemon juice enhances their flavor.
Rutabagas are high in antioxidants. The vegetable’s most significant nutrient is vitamin C, and one cup contains 53% of the recommended daily requirement. To make measuring easier, think of a cup of cubed vegetables as being equal to the size of your fist or a baseball. Rutabagas are low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol and are an excellent source of dietary fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. One cup of cubed rutabagas contains about 66 calories. All of these factors help to promote health throughout the body. Surprise your family with a new addition to the menu. Both you and those at your dinner table are in for a real treat!