The Healthy Rutabaga
Origin of the Rutabaga
The rutabaga, Brassica napus, was developed in northern Europe in the 1600s, as a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. Today, the name, rutabaga, is most commonly used in North America to describe this popular root crop. Another common term for this turnip-like vegetable is swede, which is quite apropos, since this vegetable most probably originated in Sweden or nearby Russia. Other names for the rutabaga include Swedish turnip, white turnip, neeps (Scottish) and Steckruben (German), where the lowly rutabaga is considered to be a famine food and not generally found at the dinner table.
The Cruciferous Flower
For all the botanists out there, the rutabaga is one of many cruciferous vegetables. Besides rutabagas, the cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, turnips, radishes and a few other cool-weather edibles. These popular food items are all part of the Cruciferae family of flowering plants. In this case, Cruciferae refers to the crucifer or cross-like pattern that can be seen with the four petals that make up the flower.
The Rutabaga Today
Most rutabagas consumed in the United States are either grown in Canada or in the northern tier of states, located just south of the Canadian line. Rutabagas are definitely a cold weather crop in that it is best to harvest the roots after the first hard frost, as this will improve their taste. Rutabagas are most commonly boiled or baked, but they can be peeled, sliced and eaten raw like a carrot. Cooked rutabagas are commonly used in many types of stews and casserole dishes.
Nutrients in Rutabagas
Rutabagas and Diabetes
Since rutabagas have a lower carbohydrate content (about 20%) than potatoes, they can be used as a substitute for the popular tuber. This substitution is especially beneficial for people with diabetes, as the consumption of boiled or baked rutabagas can lessen the amount of sugars that are produced in the human body. Rutabagas are also high in fiber, which in turn, will aid in the digestive process.
A raw rutabaga that is peeled and sliced, is actually quite tasty, especially when it is dipped in a flavorful sauce. Rutabagas are high in fiber, so eating a raw rutabaga will also help your digestion. The important point here is to make sure you use a rutabaga that has been harvested after the first frost. You can tell if this is the case, by slicing opening the vegetable and examining the inner flesh. If the rutabaga is picked after the first hard frost, the color of the vegetable will be white (or close to it) and it can be eaten fresh. On the other hand, If the inner workings have a yellow tint, then it best to go ahead and cook the rutabaga, which will still yield a delicious dinner treat.
The simplest way to cook a rutabaga is by peeling the skin and slicing off both ends. This needs to be done because most farms will coat each rutabaga in wax before sending them to market. Once the vegetable is peeled in can then be diced and boiled until tender. Finally, mash up the pieces and add butter, salt and pepper. The result is quite tasty.
Neeps, Haggis and Latties
Rutabagas Around the World
Depending upon where you live on the planet, you may come across rutabagas prepared in ways that you never imagined. Not only that, but you may also find that the root vegetable goes by many different names. For example, if you happen to be in Scotland, you could be served a dish called haggis that comes with neeps and latties. The neeps are rutabagas, the latties are potatoes and haggis is a traditional meat pudding made from sheep innards.
In Finland, the rutabagas go into a special Christmas dish, called Lanttulaatikko, which also contains eggs, cream and spices. And finally, in Norway and Sweden rutabagas are blended with carrots, potatoes and cream to make a puree sauce, called rotmos.
Numerous Rutabaga Recipe
Finding or creating tasty rutabaga dishes is no great feat. Just remember that the purple veggie makes an easy substitute for carrots or potatoes and you will be all set to become your own creative chef. Some of the common dishes that might welcome a rutabaga addition or substitute include Indian masala, Shepherd's pie, lentil soup, french fried potatoes and potatoes au gratin. All these possibilities, plus a few more can be found here, plus many more are out there waiting, for all it takes is a quick online search to locate other recipes.
© 2017 Harry Nielsen