Star Ingredient

Star Ingredient of the Week: Rutabaga

This week’s Star Ingredient is the Rutabaga.  I’m visualizing thought bubbles popping up over all our blog readers.  Most have “What the heck is a rutabaga?” in them.  It’s a valid question since not many people have probably even tried a rutabaga, well at least not that they’re aware of.  However, between Chef Diana curating it in our market boxes (and featuring it in some very tasty recipes) and me, Johnny Kat, giving you the 411 on it, you’ll see why it’s well-deserving of celebrity veggie status!

What The Heck Is A Rutabaga?

It’s a root vegetable from the esteemed Brassica family…but you can eat the leaves, too…so it’s a two-fer.  In fact, it’s actually a hybrid between a turnip and a wild cabbage.  It started showing up in gardens across Northern Europe sometime in the 17th century and not just for eating.  Apparently in Scotland, Ireland and Northern England they carved the roots into lanterns at Halloween.

Winter is the best time of year to eat rutabagas. They are rugged enough to stay in the ground longer than most root vegetables.  In fact they say rutabagas touched by at least two frosts will be the sweetest and most flavorful!  And they store easily for months (but we’ll get to that shortly).  Sure they’re startlingly large and sort of dumpy-looking but while they may not look very alluring, underneath their woody-looking exterior, their butter-yellow flesh is sweet and earthy

Why Should You Incorporate Rutabagas Into Your Diet?

Rutabagas are a hearty vegetable packed with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.  They contain powerful compounds that help fight inflammation, prevent premature aging and are associated with a reduced risk of various cancers.  Oh, Keto Diet aficionados take note…rutabagas have one-third of the net carbs of potatoes plus they promote feelings of fullness, which can help you manage how much you eat which in turn will prevent weight gain.  But wait…there’s more…rutabagas are a good source of calcium and potassium!  Have I turned you into a fan, yet?  

Keep Your Rutabaga In Tip-Top Shape!

Rutabagas will keep for months in a cool storage place.  Store rutabagas wrapped in a moist cloth or paper towel placed in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Rutabagas will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 months.  The greens can be stored the same way but not last as long as the roots.

You can also cut them up to freeze but you’ll want to peel them first, then blanch them.  Before peeling, wash them using cool or slightly warm water and a vegetable brush.  Then be sure to slice off the stem and root ends with a chef’s knife to create a stable base to peel.

How To Enjoy Your Rutabaga!

One of the simplest and tastiest ways to eat rutabagas is just to cube, boil, and mash them with butter. Unlike potatoes, which can get gluey if you mash them overzealously, there’s no danger of overdoing it with rutabaga. If you want them really smooth, you can throw rutabagas in the food processor.  Mash it with carrots for added color.

Another fun idea is to break out the spiralizer to make low-carb rutabaga pasta!  You can eat them raw but they’re delightful baked into a casserole or boil them slightly and toss them with olive oil, herbs and shredded hard cheeses.

Really impress your family & friends and make Rutabagas Hasselback, Chef Diana gave the Hasselback treatment to butternut squash this past Fall and said we could use it on lots of veggies…so why not?  Cut the rutabaga into thin slices leaving them joined at the bottom.  Then bake and baste with melted butter until the slices are bronzed and crispy.  You can even put slices of red onion and garlic between each wedge for extra flavor!

For more ideas on what to do with your rutabaga, check out the recipes this week.  Chef Diana is making a Spring Slaw with rutabagas and a Rutabaga & Apple Soup!  

So…Are You A Fan, Yet?

Easy to store.  Can last for a long time in storage.  Full of things that are good for you (and even help you lose weight)!  Really easy to prep and enjoy in recipes.  I guess the question should be “How can you NOT be a fan of the rutabaga?”  But you’d better hurry, like all good things we’re coming to the end of the season for the rutabaga which is October – March.

-Johnny Kat