The Rutabaga Rundown
I’m solid, starchy and round, and I grow in the ground. I can be served steamed, baked, boiled, mashed, roasted or chopped in a soup. I can survive in dark, dry storage for months, so I’m especially fit for winter months. Who am I?
If you said “potato”, pat yourself on the back for participation, but nope, I'm not a potato.
I’m the rutabaga, a relatively new addition to the vegetable family. Legend says that, in the 1600s, I was born out of a cross between a turnip and cabbage by Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin. I’m not sure where this nerd got the idea to meld a turnip with a cabbage, but I’m grateful, especially since I turned out to be one of the more flavorful and versatile vegetables on the market. I mean, I’m basically a winter season super-hero; if you check my résumé, you’ll see that I've been crucial to feeding livestock during the winter months due to my affinity for cold soil and drought resistance, not to mention my high protein content and easy digestibility. I even have a famine period known as “Rutabaga Winter” during World War I named after me since I sustained thousands of German civilians that would otherwise starve as a result of a poor autumn harvest and the trade blockades. You're welcome!
The people of Scandinavia caught onto me early, particularly in Sweden. Europeans still refer to me as “Swedes” instead of rutabagas, which is unsettling because it sounds like someone might be dining on a Swedish person rather than a winter root vegetable.
So why don’t have celeb-status in the US?
It might have to do with the fact that I was virtually unheard of around these parts until only 200 years ago, and I mostly grow in the cold northern states and Canada… but in my opinion, humans don’t really have an excuse not to eat me all the time and they’re just goofballs that are slow to jump on the rutabaga train. Except for Ithaca NY Farmer’s Market, where they hold an annual Rutabaga Curling Championship. It’s BYOR – Bring Your Own Rutabaga. (Yes, it’s a real event, I may be a vegetable but I’m not a liar).
If you’ve never eaten rutabaga before, you’re in luck! I’m featured in next week’s Chicken and Rutabaga Stew with Rosemary, so order by Sunday at midnight and I promise, you'll be rooting for rutabaga all day, every day!