Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Rutabagas, which are also called Garden Swedes, are one of my very favorite vegetables. Fresh from the earth they are sweet, crisp, and flavorful - right up there with gophers will love them as much as you do.

Rutabagas benefit from loose soil that has been dug and crumbled to at least 6 inches deep. Adding compost, leaf mould, coffee grounds, or other fine worms, and your future crop. Once the beds or containers are prepared, seed should be broadcast or planted in shallow furrows. Cover the seed lightly with compost, planting mix, or sand, and keep the beds evenly moist until the young plants are established and the rains begin. Seedlings should begin emerging in a week to ten days. They can be thinned to stand about 2 inches apart. Once your plants are about 6 – 8 inches tall you can thin them to stand 4 – 6 inches apart. The thinnings, roots, tops, and all can be added to salads, soups, or casseroles. Along about the middle to end of December you should be able to pull some decent sized roots. And you are in for a treat.

While the rutabagas from the grocery store are pretty dang good, they are nothing compared to your own fresh produce. These guys can be steamed, mashed, baked, or even fried. I like them the very best cut into quarters and stashed in the pan with a pot roast, or a chicken or turkey. Slow roasting brings out the sweetness to its best advantage and enhances the flavor of the roots, the broth, and the main course. The leaves can be steamed or sautéed in some olive oil with a bit of garlic and served as a side dish.

Cream of rutabaga soup makes a great winter comfort food. Simply scrub up your roots, (reserving the tops), cut the roots into chunks, place in a sauce pan with just enough water to cover, and simmer till tender. Then drain the water from the roots, and save it in a bowl or other container. Use a paring knife to remove any roots or tough places on the skin, and then place the roots in the food processor and whiz. Add some of the reserved cooking water as necessary to correct the consistency. Return your puree to the pot, and slowly reheat. Add some of the chopped greens if desired and salt and pepper to taste. You can also add a bit of olive oil or butter, and if you like you can splash in a bit of milk, cream, or a grating of your favorite cheese. If at any point the soup seems too thick you can dilute it by stirring in some more of your reserved cooking water, or milk if you would rather. Serve with garlic toast, deviled eggs, and hot spicy apple cider and you have a complete, easy and inexpensive mea l- all in harmonious golden hues.

Speaking of gold, one cup of rutabaga, before adding other ingredients, has only 50 calories! It is also high in phosphorous, potassium, vitamin C, A, and folate. It is low in fats and protein, and a fairly good source of fiber. By serving it as a side dish, with a source of protein and B vitamins such as beans, eggs, or meat, and a source of calcium such as dark leafy greens (which grow right on the top of your roots), or milk, yogurt, or cheese – you have a nutritionally complete meal. Nutritionally complete, and depending on your choices, very healthy and low in fat! That ought to give any dieter a golden glow.

Teachers might find some gold of another kind in the study of rutabagas. Any exploration of American history will probably include a unit on Thomas Jefferson, and that can include a celebration of our favorite root. Thomas Jefferson had an avid interest in gardening and the place of agriculture in world affairs. He strongly believed in crop diversification. And he was personally an advocate of our lovely rutabaga. He saved rutabaga seeds himself and shared them, which was documented by his own hand in a letter to a friend. For more information see: http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/resrch3.cfm
And: http://www.jeffersoninstitute.org/initiative/jefferson.shtml

If you are ready to get your own rutabagas growing, check out the seed displays at your local stores or any garden catalogs you have on hand. Rutabagas are often listed along with the turnips – to which they are closely related. If they don’t carry these good as gold roots contact Territorial Seed Company to request a catalog: http://www.territorialseed.com (800) 626-0866

Stay tuned, next time we will be exploring Companion Planting, part art, part science -with lots of room for experimenting. Meanwhile, you can probably find me out in the garden, Digging the Dirt.

Copyright 2006 Harvest McCampbell, from my column "Digging the Dirt," published in The Hoopa Valley People Newspaper, Sept. 26, 2006. Posted here with permission. http://www.hoopa-nsn.gov/enterprises/newspaper.htm

Here are some links to Rutabaga pics:

Here’s More Fall and Winter Veggies, and the Poem is on down below –




Red Japanese Mustard:




Here’s the poem:

Veggie Love

turnip the heat
my darling
rutabaga baby

daikon has
nothing on you
salsify and burdock
come to mind
yams are a treat
but not so sweet
as your rootset deeply in

turnip the
my darling
rutabaga baby

Copyright 5-18-05 Harvest McCampbell

You can find more of my writing at http://www.HarvestMcCampbell.com
& http://groups.yahoo.com/group/harvests_thoughts/messages

That's all . . .

1 comment:

jules said...

loving the vegetable poem..nice work