Rutabagas, also sometimes referred to as swede or yellow turnip, originated as a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. They are very common in Scandinavia (the Finns eat more than anyone else) and other cooler European countries.
They are a staple in winter CSA shares and the two most common varieties are Purple Top and Gilfeather (pictured at left). The Gilfeather is sometimes referred to as a turnip though is a rutabaga. It is very mild and sweet. The more common purple topped varieties have a creamy yellow flesh whereas the Gilfeather is white.
I was slow to warm to these roots. Some people are sensitive to their slight bitterness or seemingly sulfuric smell and taste and I am one of those. After much cooking and testing I have come up with a handful of recipes I really enjoy, all listed below.
Roasting the roots sweetens them but can also intensify the bitterness perceived by some, whereas boiling (and then mashing or adding to soups) dilutes the flavor. Rutabagas are often combined with other roots–carrots, turnips, potatoes, parsnips, celery root–in gratins, soups or mashes. They add a distinct and pleasant sweetness.
Rutabagas happen to be very high in Vitamin C, contain many minerals and are high in fiber and have antioxidant properties. Here’s an article with more information on their health benefits.
One-line recipe from Chef Jenn Louis of Ray Restaurant.
Sauté rutabaga and pear cubes with sage until caramelized. Finish with brown butter, sea salt and aged balsamic.
Good techniques and flavor combinations for Rutabagas:
- They do well in soups, curries and stews and mashed with or without other root veggies or potatoes and roasted.
- Roasting tends to concentrate its flavor whereas boiling dilutes it.
- Rutabagas are also excellent raw as in the winter slaw from your packet a few weeks. If using them in a slaw, grate or finely slice and then toss with salt and let sit for up to an hour. Then rinse and dry. This removes some of the potential harshness.
- Nutmeg goes well with them, especially in a mash with some butter and/or cream.
- Thyme and rosemary are also complementary flavors.
- Add them diced to a lentil soup (or any veggie soup) much like you would potatoes.
Recipes featuring rutabagas: