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Seasonal Snippet: Diggin’ Rutabagas & Mid-Winter Tacos

Seasonal Snippet: Diggin’ Rutabagas & Mid-Winter Tacos

contributed by Katy Morris

In the bitter cold of February here in the Northeast, we are shining the spotlight on a locally grown, versatile root vegetable, the rutabaga.

 Ruta- What?

Rutabagas, otherwise known as swedes, are members of the Brassica family. Although not brightly colored or calling out for attention like some of your other winter favorites, don’t overlook this pleasantly earthy, mildly sweet veg. They are actually super nutritious, tasty, affordable, and easy to incorporate into a variety of dishes. Rutabagas are a cross between cabbages and turnips. They are a tad sweeter, larger, rounder, and denser than their turnip relative. Their bulbous bottom is a cream color and the shoulders are a purplish hue.


Where and when should I get them?

As always, your local farmer’s markets are always your best bet to get recently dug rutabagas.  Local Harvest is a really great resource to find your closest markets – check it out here.  If you must get them from your supermarket, just be aware that they will likely wax the vegetable in an effort to hold in the moisture. Although rutabagas are available all year, the quality of these thrifty root vegetables peaks around now through March.

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What should I look for?

Rutabagas have a cream colored, bulbous bottom with purple hued shoulders. You want to make sure that the ones you pick are free of blemishes, soft spots and cracks and they should be very firm and relatively heavy. Choose rutabagas that are about 4-6 inches high, which is indicative of their maturity.


They are on my counter. How do I handle them?

Since rutabagas are pretty big and have a thick skin, people often assume that prepping them is a daunting task; however it’s not as hard as it looks. Get your large chef knife, paring knife (or vegetable peeler) and cutting board ready to go. After rinsing and drying the rutabaga, cut off the top and the bottom so that it doesn’t roll around on the surface. Then, using your peeler, scrape off the outer layer and be sure to get all the wax off (if you’ve purchased them someplace other than a farmers market).  You want to see the yellowish flesh of the bulb once peeled properly, not green or white. Once peeled, chop or slice, depending on how you plan on cooking them.

Rutabagas store extremely well. If you don’t want to prep and cook them right away, put the unwashed veggies in the drawer of your fridge, where they will be just fine for up to a month.

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Prepped…and ready. Now what?

These guys are very versatile. You can eat them raw (as a snack, grated or julienned in your salad or cole slaw) or cooked (roasted, mashed, stewed, boiled, steamed – you name it!).  Some of the most popular ways to use them are as a substitute for mashed potatoes, roasted alongside potatoes, carrots, and onions, or creamed into a hot soup. Although the bulb is the most popular part to use, the greens are also edible. Note that they are pretty bitter, and can be used raw in salads or added to soups and stews.

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Recipe, please!

Thank you to Nancy Roper of Truck in Bedford, NY for this fantastic Winter Vegetable Taco recipe featuring locally grow rutabaga.

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