How To Use Rutabagas without Eating Them - 10 Clever Ideas

Rutabagas are for more than eating!
Rutabagas are for more than eating! | Source

You Can Give the Poor Forgotten Rutabaga a New Life

The rutabaga is common in northern Europe, the northern US, and Canada, all of which are major producers of this root crop. Yet, throughout most of the world, the humble rutabaga has not come into its own as a household comestible or even as a household word.

I’d like to change that.

If you happen to be among the many who don’t know what a rutabaga is, or among those who know what it is but simply don’t like it, here are 10 ways to make rutabagas a part of your life without eating them.

I hope you enjoy your adventure into the world of the rutabaga and spread the good word.

A rutabaga isn’t just for cooking.

Thanks to Patricia Rae for dubbing the rutabaga the "poor forgotten rutabaga".

The Bagaheads

Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head have gone green. Check out the green bean mouth.
Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head have gone green. Check out the green bean mouth. | Source

1 - Make a Mr. and Mrs. Bagahead

Who doesn’t remember Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head? Since 1952, children and adults have enjoyed endless hours of fun and creativity by decorating potatoes with plastic body parts. Well, the Mr. and Mrs. Bagahead of today, inspired by Mr. George Lerner’s 1952 invention, are exemplifying the transition from plastic living to green living by sporting body parts made from vegetable and found materials instead of plastics.

Take an extra step here and post your Mr. and Mrs. Bagahead creations to HubPages in a Hub or in a HubPages forum post. I’ll be looking for them!


The Original Jack-o-Lantern

An early rutabaga Jack-o-Lantern from the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.
An early rutabaga Jack-o-Lantern from the Museum of Country Life, Ireland. | Source

2 - Make a Jack-o-Lantern

It was the Irish who gave us the Jack-o-Lantern we know today.

It was their ancient custom to carve rutabagas (and other autumn vegetables) and fill the carvings with hot coals to ward off harmful spirits attending the end of harvest. When Irish immigrants came to this country and discovered the new world pumpkin, our familiar Jack-o-Lantern was born.

The pumpkin was not only easier to carve, but it had such a beautiful color. Sorry, rutabaga, your skin color just can't compare with the pumpkin's.

3 - Grow the World’s Largest Rutabaga

What a wonderful challenge for you gardeners. The current world’s record rutabaga weight is 82.9 pounds, a record set in 2009 and recognized by Guinness World Records. That’s a lot of rutabaga.

World's Largest Rutabaga as of 2009

Now that's a rutabaga! Scott Robb of Palmer, Alaska, is the happy grower, the happy winner.
Now that's a rutabaga! Scott Robb of Palmer, Alaska, is the happy grower, the happy winner. | Source

Rutabaga Curl

Yes, folks, there's a rutabaga about to be curled down the course. It's cold up there in Ithaca!
Yes, folks, there's a rutabaga about to be curled down the course. It's cold up there in Ithaca! | Source

4 - Host a Rutabaga Curl

The folks in Ithaca, New York are mighty serious about their rutabagas. For 13 years they’ve been celebrating this crop with the annual Rutabaga World Curling Championship.

If you’d like to host a Rutabaga Curl in your area, perhaps you will contact them. I don’t know if event organizers have ever been approached for advice about setting up a local Curl; perhaps you’ll be the first to do so.

5 - Feed Your Cows, Goats, and Sheep and Treat Your Horse

Rutabaga has a long history as fodder for ruminants. Not too long ago, the practice of growing rutabaga for harvesting for animal feed ceased, as it is a labor-intensive process. However, much experimentation is now going on with growing rutabaga as a late season grazing crop. Cows, goats, and sheep eat the greens as well as the roots by grazing through a late-season planted pasture.

As for horses, they happen to like rutabagas, and some owners treat their horses by simply lofting rutabagas into the air and letting the ponies go after them.

6 - Clean Your Pots

Peel and dice a rutabaga and boil it in clean water in a stainless steel pot that you’ve been cleaning with only soap and hot water and consider to be clean. Think of this use as substituting rutabaga for a steel wool soap pad or abrasive stainless steel powder. If you are saying, “I don’t believe this,” I don’t blame you because that’s exactly what I said until I tried it. I was amazed at the results. Automatic dishwasher soap manufacturers ought to be looking at whatever property is in a rutabaga that cleans mostly invisible “scum” from stainless steel pots.

7 - Make Rutabaga Stamps

Both kids and adults have always loved making potato stamps and using them on crafts projects. The rutabaga is a little harder to cut, thus requiring more stringent adult supervision, but because it is firmer than the potato it may last for more impressions per project.

8 - Make a Lesson Plan

For those of you who are teachers, think about using the rutabaga as a central element to a lesson plan. The possibilities are limitless.

  • Language arts. This is an opportunity to teach etymology. The rutabaga has its anchor in the Swedish rotabagge. Not to mention that rutabaga is so much fun to say and offers endless opportunities for poetic play. Rutabaga Bowl. Rutabaga Rocket. Buy a bag of rutabagas.
  • Math. Chopping up and measuring a rutabaga by weight or volume teaches units of measurement and offers an opportunity for algebraic problem solving.
  • Science. Botany, chemistry, and biology can all be taught through the rutabaga. Think plant classification, nutritional components, growth cycles and propagation.
  • History. Rutabaga consumption, less or more, marks historical events. Famines bring on more rutabaga consumption; good economic times bring on a shunning of this vegetable.
  • Social Studies. It may be that rutabaga was and is perceived as a “lower class” food. What are the reasons for this perception and what is the impact this perception has on today’s food habits and choices?
  • Geography. Here's an opportunity to learn about the climate and physical characteristics of our world as seen by where rutabagas are grown.

Well, teachers, you get the gist. You can teach the world from the humble rutabaga.

Make a Dog Happy with a Taste of Freshly Steamed Rutabaga

9 - Make a Doggie Fetch Toy

Dogs happen to like rutabaga, and it does them no harm to eat it in small amounts. A fresh rutabaga without wax is a perfect fetch ball as is. If you only have access to waxed rutabagas, peel the waxy skin off before you play. Depending on how much your dog takes to rutabaga, in that he’d rather eat it than play fetch with it, you may have to give up the game in favor of using pieces of rutabaga as special treats.

10 - Start a Rutabaga Rocket

Although a number of rutabaga fairs and festivals occur around harvest time, including the Rutabaga World Curling Championship in Ithaca, New York, there seems to be nothing that compares to the high-tech, exciting Punkin Chunkin, where teams of contestants design hurling machines to launch pumpkins into the air over long distances.

An annual Rutabaga Rocket challenge would do wonders for the rutabaga’s popularity while it would encourage engineering design, and even perhaps transgenic engineering. Pumpkins are much more fragile than rutabagas and can explode or collapse before they are launched. But if the gene responsible for rutabaga flesh strength were inserted into the DNA of the pumpkin…well, the sky’s the limit. Not to mention we’d now have a new vegetable to play with, the Rutakin.

Rooty Rutabaga, our hero.
Rooty Rutabaga, our hero. | Source

Give Rutabagas a Chance

The rutabaga is not a commonly grown, consumed, or documented root vegetable like the carrot or parsnip, or even the turnip. In the world’s modern cuisines, the rutabaga is not stylish or trendy and is more often absent than present, and in the history of cuisine, the rutabaga goes mostly unmentioned. Yet, the rutabaga is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich food with a pleasantly sweet taste, easy to grow and easy to cook. It’s also cheap and versatile, not only as a food but, as you can see, as a creative medium. Our champion for giving rutabagas a chance is Rooty Rutabaga, a charmingly cool, charismatic character who works hard to promote rutabagas for all seasons and reasons.

Special thanks to annemaeve for introducing me to Punkin Chunkin, exploring the possibilities of Mr. and Mrs. Bagahead, and weeding through the literature on horses and dogs eating rutabaga.

More by this Author


Comments 55 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

I would eat rootabagas, Sally, but I make it a policy not to eat anything I cannot spell. That goes for rhoobarb and aspairagus as well. :)

On the more serious side, thanks for the introduction to all the fabulous ways one can use this enchanting foodstuff without actually ingesting it.


Patricia Rae 5 years ago

Too funny. I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks Sally's Trove.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

LOL drbj, I've got my quirks about what I eat and don't, too. Anything involving animal brains or intestines is out of scope. Glad you enjoyed the creative possibilities of rootabagas. :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Patricia, glad you got a chuckle! Thank you so much for the "poor forgotten rutabaga" and also for leaving your link here. You have a beautiful site.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 5 years ago from India

I have to say that the rutabaga is quite an unprepossessing creature - just look at the jack-o-lantern or the world's largest rutabaga!!! But this is a great idea for a hub, ST! :)


DIYweddingplanner profile image

DIYweddingplanner 5 years ago from South Carolina, USA

I ate rutabagas for the first time in my life a couple of months ago and would have to say, your ideas are far better than ever putting anything like that in my mouth again!


Kay Creates profile image

Kay Creates 5 years ago from Ohio

Who knew rutabagas were so versatile? :-) Fun ideas. I enjoyed your hub and I love rutabagas.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

FP, thanks for the good words! My mother said I was always for the underdog, and I think the poor forgotten rutabaga qualifies!

DIY, sorry you had that unhappy experience. I hope you give the basic easy recipe above a try, because when rutabaga cooks in vegetable stock, it's nothing but sweet. With all that said, it is true that you either love or hate rutabaga, sort of like cilantro, and sometimes can acquire a taste for it, as some say you have to with Scotch. Glad you liked the ideas. :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thanks for the good words, Kay. I'm delighted to know you are among the rutabaga lovers!


annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 5 years ago from Philly Burbs

That rutabaga Jack-o-Lantern is scaaaarrryyy! Looks too much like Hannibal Lecter's anti-cannibal mask!! But I love this hub and all the ideas it contains.

Now... what about 10 uses for the wax you scrape off the rutabaga on your way to eating it? :P


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Anne, thank you for all your help and good ideas. This Hub wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without you. As for the rutabaga wax, I'll leave that one for you to do!


mwatkins profile image

mwatkins 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

Bagahead is my favorite! I'll have to add that one to my scrapbook for things to do with our younger nieces and nephews this spring and summer. What made you think of this! It is so clever! Great job!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Mischelle, the Bagaheads are my favorites, too! But I'm afraid you'll have to wait for late summer or autumn to share this activity with your nieces and nephews, if you want to use a fresh rutabaga with its roots and tops, one that hasn't been trimmed and waxed for market. The rutabaga has a long growing season and typically matures in late summer to mid-autumn, or even later.

Fortunately, I believe you are in an area where local farm markets may have fresh rutabagas for sale late in the growing season. I found this blog post from Klamath Falls that you might find interesting:

http://www.ripplenw.org/authors/45/posts/237

What made me think of this was the feedback from my earlier Hub on rutabaga history and nutrition and also browsing the Internet for what folks had to say about rutabaga. The feedback and browsing showed that lots of folks either absolutely don't like the taste of this vegetable or don't know what it is, frequently confusing it with a turnip (there are linguistic reasons for this, but that's a topic for another time). So, since I am pretty passionate about the rutabaga, I thought I'd try to find a way to promote it that didn't involve eating it!

Thanks so much for your good words. I hope you find lots of fresh rutabagas this coming fall to turn into Bagaheads!


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 5 years ago

This is inspiring.

Going along with my comment on your other hub, this could be the start of a feature in supermarkets all across the country. Talk to the produce manager and say you'd like to set up a section in the veggie aisle for interesting, misunderstood vegetables. Offer a pamphlet about each one telling of its nutritional value and how to prepare it.

Or, you could gather up a handful of these poor veggies and take them to cooking and/or home economics classes in schools. It would go a long way to educating our young folks.

It might get the kids motivated enough to want to experiment at home with them and who knows? Maybe they'd come up with new recipes, and decide that hey, these veggies aren't so bad after all!

And I'll just bet that bagaheads would be a big hit with the lower grades!

PS: Do they even have home economics classes anymore?


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Trish, my friend, you are hired! :)


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

I got a real chuckle out of this - loved the BagaHeads and the largest rutabaga looked like it came from outer space. Maybe it did. Anyhow - I used to have a recipe for rutabaga and strawberry pie but I burned it. Not the pie, the recipe. Thanks for the fun. I needed it.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Peg, that huge rutabaga does look kind of alien, doesn't it? I'm glad you got a chuckle out of this. I had a lot of fun putting it together. :)


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

LOL I have another one for you--and this does not even require possession of a rutabaga!

Many years ago, my younger daughter was a member of the San Francisco Girls' Chorus. They were taught how to make a "perfect bow" at the end of a performace, so they would all be in unison at the end of the bow.

When the conductor signaled the bow, they were all to initiate the bow, and then say the word "rutabaga" silently to themselves. This timed the bow as not too hasty or jerky, and not overly long either.

So now you know a stage secret, too! ;-)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

He,he, MsLizzy. I love it! Sure beats "one mississippi". I have been hearing that just saying the word "rutabaga" makes you smile, so I'll bet those lovely young singers had smiles on their faces, too. Once again, thanks for enriching this Hub with your wonderful comments.


robie2 profile image

robie2 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

Wow-- who knew you could do so much with the humble rutabaga-- another masterful hub ST. I loved it because unlike many people, I love rutabagas and always include them on my Thanksgiving table. BTW in some parts of America they are known as Swedes rather than rutabagas-- guess that is because the Swedes introduced Americans to these yummy root veggies-- I'm dfinitely going to try that pot cleaning thing, and next time I have to take a bow I will definitely mutter " rutabaga" under my breath:-)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Hey Robie! It doesn't surprise me that a Jersey girl would love rutabaga. Many thanks for your comment, one of the thanks being that I didn't realize this Hub didn't link to the first rutabaga Hub which covers history, nutrition, and recipes (including the name "swede"), so now it does. And the rest of the thanks being for your always enriching comments. Next time I see you take a bow, I'll know what you are saying under your breath!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for the amount of information. I never knew anything about.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

You are so welcome, H,h!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

I actually grew rutabagas when I had a large garden in Wisconsin. My next door neighbor used to mash them with potatoes in equal portions. Delicious! I like the taste of rutabagas and do not often find them in our southern supermarkets.

Had fun reading about all the different uses...especially the pot cleaning purpose. Next rutabaga I am able to purchase...will give that a try!

Useful and funny rating on this one!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Peggy, Wisconsin is in that Rutabaga Belt. Lucky you to have had that experience! The South sees little of them for a lot of reasons, mostly cultural. It's perfectly possible to ship rutabagas to the South, just like it's possible to ship grapes from Chile to the North. The difference is demand.

When you find that rutabaga, buy two: one to clean the pot and the other to boil in veggie stock. Then mash them both up with taters, just like your neighbor did.

Glad you enjoyed this Hub!


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

I just love fun creative hubs like this. I can go in for the curling. I've actually enjoyed a bit of rutabaga in soup. And when I make a vegetable soup without it - well the whole thing is just wrong.

Love those lesson plan ideas. In fact I'm working on an article about elementary school gardens and how the history of the fruit and vegetables (since most are not native) can be used in world history lessons. Brilliant!

Thanks for the hub. Rated up. Yay!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, I had never heard of the rutabaga before! who would have thunk it! lol great hub, I loved all these ideas, now I am going to have to take a look at one of these strange veggies! lol

Oh, it's a swedish turnip! ha ha now I feel like a turnip! lol


loves2cook profile image

loves2cook 5 years ago from Portland, OR

Hilarious, informative, and mind-boggling... I never knew there were so many uses for a rutabaga! Think I'll stick with pumpkins for Halloween, though :). Thanks for the hub!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

BK, glad you found the lesson plan ideas interesting, and I am happy to know about your upcoming article on elementary school gardens. I think every opportunity teacher and student have to integrate different disciplines, especially through something funky like a rutabaga, broadens a child's knowledge tenfold. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and leaving your good words.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Nell, there is nothing turnip-like about you! Glad you enjoyed the ideas.

loves2cook, I'm with you about sticking to pumpkins for Halloween. They're so much easier to carve. Glad you got good chuckles out of this!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia

This made me lol!! Too funny, yet useful! Rated way up.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

WOW, Holle, I like "way" up! Glad you enjoyed. :)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

I love the Rutabaga

Not to eat but sayga

Weird like Lady Gaga

Extremely Rutabaga

=:)

Very well done Sally--loved it.


CarolineChicago profile image

CarolineChicago 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

Great hub! I personally like rutabaga when it is roasted with sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Ah, Winsome, you've given us the first wee verse in honor of the humble rutabaga. I'm delighted you were inspired. :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Caroline, sounds like you have a "sweet root tooth." Those would by my top choices, too. Thanks for the good words!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Sherri - this is hilarious! That photo of the massive rutabaga just cemented my desire not to eat them! LOL!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Oh, com'on Steph, you know that less is more. I know you want to try a little rutabaga. :) So glad you had a good chuckle!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa

This is so wonderful! I have read about these things but really have not looked too deeply into the subject - now you have piqued my curiosity. I shall try to find some here. Could make a useful addition to our diet.

Thanks for sharing - this Hub is both useful and hilarious - I loved it.

Love and peace

Tony


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Tony, thanks so much for your good words. It pleases me to no end that you enjoyed this Hub and got a good laugh out of it! I had a lot of fun writing it. If you can't find fresh rutabaga in South Africa, you might be able to find it frozen or even canned. Good luck!


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

Sally, you are so creative. I like to eat rutabagas in a soup or stew now I can craft with them.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

KKG, thanks for the good words! The rutabaga surely is versatile. I'll bet you come up with some great rutabaga craft projects. :)


stone soup profile image

stone soup 5 years ago from Ocean Shores, Washington

I loved the part about the rutabaga jack-o-lantern! I did not know that. Maybe I will try it this year.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Hey, stone soup...start doing your exercises now to build up the arm muscles. A rutabaga's a lot harder to carve than a pumpkin! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland

What a treasure of a hub! I had no idea there were so many creative uses for such an ugly veggie. Now I won't have to tell the kids "hey quit playing with your food!" I'm bookmarking this for later. I'm off to buy some ruta, rooda, rutabegs...nevermind.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Glad you enjoyed, Ardie. Buy plenty of them. They are usually pretty inexpensive. I got a 2-pounder the other day for a dollar! At that price, the kids can have plenty of food to play with. BTW, I just love saying "rutabaga." The sound cracks me up. Thanks for the good words!


Karen N profile image

Karen N 5 years ago from United States

How funny! As a child I remember that my dad loved rutabagas, but of course I also hated them along with fried okra and squash. :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Karen, how cool! Kids have their opinions about food. But now I'm wondering...have you tried a rutabaga as an adult? :) PS...I never liked okra.


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Wow, I have never heard of this vege. But I have heard of the punkinchunkin, ha. I am always amazed though when people tell me they never heard of Kohlrabi. I love Kohlrabi, peeled, sliced, with salt. Every year I have to grow at least a half dozen and give a couple away to people who at first say "ewww, yuck, what it is?" But they are so good, similar to a radish but not as bitter.

Very well written and entertaining article. Thanks,

Sharyn


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Way to go, Sharyn! Kohlrabi is one of the best veggies there is. I love it like you do, raw or cooked. And I knew you know punkin chunkin. :) TK so much for your awesome comment. And now you have to cook a rutabaga.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Turnip is easier to spell than rutabaga :) This was a pretty funny hub. I make turnip at Thanksgiving, Christmas and sometimes will put them in a stew. When I was younger I loved turnips raw .... now I prefer them mashed with butter and brown sugar.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Just Ask Susan, maybe you'll try a rutabaga this year. It's not anything like a turnip. :) Glad you enjoyed this hub.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Sorry I should have explained that even though rutabaga's are rutabaga's for some strange reason in my family we've always called them turnips.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Oh! How cool. I don't think your family is alone in this. Thanks for the bit more of explanation. :)


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 14 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Great and clever ideas, Sally. Two thumbs up!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working