What is a Rutabaga?
A rutabaga is a root vegetable that falls under the same family of vegetables as turnips, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. It is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage, and can be mashed, boiled, or roasted. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor, and is a great addition to any meal.
Attributes of a Rutabaga
Rutabagas are a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years for them to mature from seed to harvest. The plant generally begins its life as a biennial in the fall and should be ready to be harvested by late summer the following year. They are hardy plants and can withstand cold temperatures and frost, which is why they are common in colder climates.
Their skin is usually rough and brown in color, and can be peeled with a vegetable peeler to reveal the lighter, yellowish-orange flesh beneath. The flesh has a slightly sweet potato-like flavor and holds its shape when cooked, making it perfect for mashing, roasting, and boiling, as well as being enjoyed raw in salads.
Nutrient Benefits of Rutabagas
Rutabagas are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are high in Vitamin C – providing almost 50% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) in a ½ cup serving – as well as vitamins B6 and K, calcium, and iron. Rutabagas are also a good source of polyphenols, which are natural antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and protect against chronic disease.
The fiber content of a rutabaga also aids in digestion and helps maintain regularity. A half cup serving of rutabagas provide 6.8 grams of fiber, which is more than 20% of the RDA.
Cooking with Rutabagas
Rutabagas can be cooked in many ways to make delicious dishes. They can be boiled and mashed like potatoes, diced and roasted, or chopped and added to soups and stews. They can also be pureed and used as a thickener for sauces or gravies.
Boiling is probably the most popular method of cooking rutabagas. To boil them, simply peel the rutabaga and cut it into ½-inch cubes. Place the cubes into boiling, salted water and let them simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. Once cooked, they can be mashed like potatoes, or served as a side dish with butter and salt.
For even more flavor, try roasting the rutabagas. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C), then dice the rutabagas into ½-inch cubes and toss with olive oil and seasonings. Roast them in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
Making Pickled Rutabagas
Another popular method of preserving and enjoying rutabagas is pickling them. Pickled rutabagas can be tossed in salads, added to sandwiches, or eaten as a snack.
To make pickled rutabagas, trim the ends of the rutabagas and peel them with a vegetable peeler. Slice the rutabagas into thin matchstick-sized pieces and add them to a glass mason jar or pickling crock.
Mix together vinegar, water, salt, optional spices (e.g. peppercorn, allspice, mustard seed, etc.), and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot liquid over the rutabagas, making sure they are completely covered. Seal the jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Rutabagas are a humble root vegetable that can easily be overlooked, but they provide a delicious addition to any meal. Whether boiled, mashed, roasted, or pickled, rutabagas are a great way to add more nutrition and variety to your plate.
Rutabagas provide high levels of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidant compounds that can help protect against chronic disease. Enjoy them by boiling them, roasting them, or using them to make pickles. No matter how you choose to prepare them, rutabagas will be sure to please!