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Name Variations

  • swede turnip
  • swede
  • yellow turnip

About Rutabaga

A cousin to the turnip, rutabagas are a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. Virtually unknown in the United States until the 19th century, this root gets its name from the Swedish word ‘rotabagge’ meaning round root. People have avoided this root because it is a cruciferous vegetable that becomes more flavored and odorous when cooked.

The rutabaga or swede or (yellow) turnip (Brassica napobrassica, or Brassica napus var. napobrassica) is a root vegetable, that originated as a cross betwen the cabbage and the (white) turnip—see the turnip disambiguation page. Its leaves may also be eaten as a leaf vegetable.

"Rutabaga" (from dialectal Swedish rotabagge) is the American term, "swede" is the term used in England, especially in the South. Its common name in Sweden is "Kålrot". It is also known as the "Swedish turnip" or "yellow turnip". To the Scots, the Irish, and some of the Northern English it is called "turnip", or colloquially, especially in Scotland, "neep"—the vegetable known elsewhere as a turnip being called a "white turnip" in Scotland. In the US, rutabagas may also be called "yellow turnips." In Newfoundland, white turnips are relatively unknown, with rutabagas being known simply as turnips.

The vegetable is native to Sweden, and was introduced into Scotland. From there, it spread to the rest of Britain and to North America. In continental Europe, it acquired a bad reputation when it became a food of last resort during World War I. In the German Steckrübenwinter of 1916–17, large parts of the population were kept alive on a diet consisting of little else but swedes. After the war, most people were so tired of eating swedes that they have remained unpopular to this day and are rarely planted.

These days, swedes are mostly eaten as part of stews or casseroles, or are served mashed with carrots, or are baked in a pasty.

In Scotland, "neeps" are traditionally served mashed as part of the Burns Night Supper and are hollowed out at Hallowe'en to make Jack-o'-lanterns.

Cultivation and Harvesting

This root vegetable is available year-round with a peak season of July through April. Choose those that are smooth, firm and heavy for their size. Rutabagas can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks. They may be prepared in any way suitable for turnips. Rutabagas, are a Cruciferous vegetable.

Availability, Selection, Storage, and Preparation

Rutabagas are available year round with a peak in the fall and winter. These roots range from tan to violet in color and are much larger than turnips; choose smooth, heavy, and firm roots. Smaller rutabagas, 4" in diameter, tend to have sweeter flavor. This root stores for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator or at room temperature for a week. Rutabagas are usually covered in wax, so it’s best to quarter the root, then peel the skin before cooking.

Rutabaga Recipes