A Ruta What?

January 24, 2008 at 10:46 am 16 comments

Herbs over the fried turnips and rutabaga 

I toyed with calling this post “Oops, I Did It Again” but thought better of it, considering what little I know of pop culture seems to indicate now is not the time to be bringing up Britney-esse.  That girl’s got issues.  But that’s beside the point.  The real point is that I’ve once again found a tasty way to serve up turnips, the one vegetable that seems to typically throw my taste buds a curveball

But this post isn’t about the turnips.  No siree.  It’s about the rutabaga.  “A ruta what?” is exactly the response I got from D when I started peeling it.  I just love saying it.  Rutagbaba.  Rutabaga.  Rutabaga.  Okay, I’ll stop.  It’s a fun name, don’t you think?  I personally think Volkswagon should call their next cute little convertible model Rutabaga.  After all, if you’re willing to name one after a furry little woodland creature, surely it’s not too much of a stretch to delve into the vegetable realm. 

Turnips with a rutabaga on the right

The inside joke here though is that I’ve never cooked a rutabaga before.  I have eaten it.  Just didn’t have the pleasure of making a fresh rutabaga’s acquaintance until working at the Headhouse Market (quick plug here for official opening market day, May 4th.  Mark your calendars!).   A starchy root vegetable much like all the others, the rutabaga draws its distinction by being an old Celtic symbol for a damned soul when hollowed out and carved with a face.  Creepy, eh?  It also fell out of favor in war-torn Europe when it was all that was left to eat.  I guess people just got plain sick of it. 

garlic, thyme, rosemary, and parsley

Superstitions and bitter history aside, this particular root vegetable is, in my mind, a very interesting cross between a sweet potato and a turnip.  Its orange flesh is high in beta-carotene and potassium, just like the sweet potato.  But it is not nearly as sweet, though definitely sweeter than a turnip, and retains some of the lighter turnip-y taste.  I find sweet potatoes to be occassionally overwhelming with their flavor, so for me this balance in the ill-reputed rutabaga is perfect. 

Oh, these are yummy, trust me!

If you haven’t tried a rutabaga, there’s no excuse not to since it’s extremely versatile – it’s good raw or, when cooked, in a hundred variations of roasted, mashed, boiled, baked, stuffed, or fried.  Anything you can do with a potato, you can do with a rutabaga and then some.  In fact, I bet anything you can do with a butternut squash you can do with a rutabaga too.   This time around, I combined it with turnips in a lovely herb-infused-browned-in-butter dish.

Boiling the turnips

It’s time for a rutabaga revolution!  Who’s with me?!?  Just to prove how committed I am to the cause, here’s a list of recipes from the archives that I am certain can use a rutabaga, either in addition to or as a substitute for listed ingredients. 

String Bean and Turnip Potpie
Caramelized Apples and Turnips

Butternut Squash and Green Bean Curry
Roasted Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash
Spicy Corn and Kohlrabi
Spelt Salad with Kohlrabi and Radish
Butter-fried Parsnips with Pomegranate Sauce
Sorrel Carrot Potato Soup
Roasted Garlic and Turnip Mash

Now, march forth and spread the rutabaga good word!  Just be ready for the inevitable question, “A ruta what?”. 

Browning the turnips and rutabaga in butter

P.S. – I almost forgot to share what excites me most about this post.  D was so very generous as to gift me with a new macro lens for my camera so I can finally start shooting the close-ups I’ve been so desperately missing since switching to my Canon!  Now I just need to adjust to its finer points, and we’ll be off to the races with some really wonderful detailed shots of the textures and colors of the vegetable world! 

Close up of peeled turnip - see the ridges?!

Herb-Mixed Turnips and Rutabagas
Adapted from The Everything Vegetarian Cookbook

2 large turnips, peeled
1 large rutabaga, peeled
2 T. butter
1 T. chopped parsley
1 t. chopped thyme
1 t. chopped rosemary
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. fresh panko or bread crumbs, browned in a teaspoon of butter

Quarter turnips and rutabaga.  Cook turnip and rutabaga seperately in salted boiling water until they are al dente; approximately 10 minutes for turnips and 15 for rutabaga.  Drain.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt butter.  Add the turnip and rutabaga; cook over medium-high heat until golden brown.  Add herbs, garlic, salt and pepper.  Toss to coat and remove from stove.  Serve immediately topped with breadcrumbs.

(serves 3-4)

Herb-Tossed Turnips and Rutabaga

Entry filed under: Purely Vegetables, Recipes. Tags: , , , , , , .

Buck Up Earning It

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. SallyGardener  |  January 24, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Hey there, we call these swedes in the UK – not so poetic sounding, but I agree with you that they’re delicious. Used to be a staple of my childhood diet, though they’re kind of out of fashion here now (not with me though).
    Love the recipe, will definitely try this for my eating seasonally experiment – you can see what I’m up to on my blog here: http://theyearofeatingseasonally.wordpress.com/
    It’s all about buying local and in season – so I think we’re reading off the same hymnsheet!
    good luck and have fun with the cooking, it’s looking great

  • 2. Jennie  |  January 24, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Sally – It’s funny, but I had a paragraph written about how some people might know these as swedes instead of rutabagas but then I thought the post was getting a bit long so I nixed it. 🙂 So glad you thought to mention it! I’ll definitely check out your blog…sounds like we’re like-minded cooks! Can’t wait to share ideas. 🙂

  • 3. taylor  |  January 24, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    I love rutabagas. I think they taste similar to the stems of broccoli.

  • 4. justopia  |  January 24, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks! I’m always looking for new vegetable recipes. This looks good.

  • 5. fallenangel65  |  January 24, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    I thought the bread crumbs were parmesan or asiago cheese – I am wondering if a mix of panko and parmesan/asiago might not be a lovely addition. Calcium, protein…and its cheese!

  • 6. Jennie  |  January 24, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks, Justopia!

    Fallen Angel – Yes, I’m sure the addition of grated cheese would be a superb idea. Smart thinkin’! By the way, the original recipe called for fresh breadcrumbs but I love panko so much that I used them instead. Cheese would be great with either of them. 🙂

  • 7. teapotter  |  January 25, 2008 at 10:10 am

    I had forgotten about rutabagas. It has been quite a while since I have used them but your photos remind me how good they are. They are generally inexpensive here and at this time of year one of the few vegetables still available on the frozen Canadian prairie that were locally grown and not imported. One thing I especially like is that they keep so well. If I buy and don’t get to using it this week, it will still be fine the following week! she thinks to herself as she heads off to the store….

  • 8. Jennie  |  January 25, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Teapotter…too funny! You made me laugh with your parting thought. 🙂 Yes, definitely revisit rutabagas and get enough to last you ’til spring!

  • 9. veggieguy  |  January 25, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I’m up for a rutabaga revolution! Strangely, that’s one thing I’ve never tried.. at least not knowingly. But I love a good challenge.

    Great blog, BTW!

  • 10. Jennie  |  January 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Awesome, Veggieguy!! I’ll have to make banners or something… 🙂 Definitely give them a try…most supermarkets seem to carry them now too (or maybe they always did but I didn’t know what I was looking about before I saw them at the farmers market). Thanks for the compliment too!

  • 11. Sara  |  February 3, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    I had my first rutabaga yesterday and I loved it! Like you said, it’s like a sweet potato, but not AS sweet. I used to love cooking with sweet potatoes but lately have been turned off by their intensity, so this is a great alternative. I love the butter yellow color of them as well.

  • 12. Jennie  |  February 4, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Sara – Woohoo! I’m glad to hear you tried one and now you’re a fan. 🙂 This also reminds me that I have another rutabaga on my counter wanting to get in a dish soon…stay tuned for another recipe after I get done with this bread kick I’m on. 🙂

  • 13. Andrea  |  March 3, 2008 at 8:48 am

    That looks really good!! Browned in butter with garlic and panko?? That’s going on my dinner table very soon! Thanks for sharing it with Grow Your Own!

  • 14. De in D.C.  |  March 3, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I tried rutabaga for the first time last fall when I did a tray of roasted root vegetables (rutabaga, carrots, turnips and onions). All 3 adults and the one child agreed that the turnips were disgusting (and the leftovers ended up going to the dog, who isn’t picky in the slightest) and we loved the rutabaga. In fact, the 7yo opted to eat more rutabaga instead of having any carrots. I picked up a couple rutabaga at the store last week and plan to try a rutabaga and potato gratin. So yes, I agree we all need more rutabaga in our lives. Viva la revolution!

  • 15. Jennie  |  March 12, 2008 at 7:43 am

    De – Viva la revolution, indeed! So glad you (and even the kids!) are on board! 🙂

  • 16. KIllatron  |  September 9, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    I love the pictures they look amazing. My wife and I tried a rutabega curry-mint experement tonight. While I will not be following in the revolution, I am looking forward to further posts.


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