What is Rutabaga? How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Rutabaga Roots? 

Rutabaga is a root vegetable cross between cabbage and turnip. It was first developed in the 19th century and has become popular worldwide. The scientific name for rutabaga is Brassica napobrassica; its Swedish name, swede, also knows it. Rutabagas have yellow-orange flesh with purple streaks on the outside, similar to a turnip but larger. Here is everything you wanted to know about Rutabaga plant:

What is the Rutabaga Root?

Rutabaga is a root vegetable that is a cross between cabbage and turnip. It was first developed in the 19th century and has since become popular around the world. The scientific name for rutabaga is Brassica napobrassica; its Swedish name, swede, also knows it. Rutabagas have yellow-orange flesh with purple streaks on the outside, similar to a turnip but larger.

History and Origin of Rutabaga Plant: 

Rutabaga, also known as swede or Swedish turnip, is a root vegetable of the brassica family, originating in Scandinavia. It is thought to have evolved from a cross between turnips and wild cabbage and has been eaten in Europe since the Middle Ages. Rutabagas are popularly used in stews, soups, and mashed dishes.

History : 

The origin of rutabaga dates back to at least the 16th century when it was mentioned as a type of turnip cultivated in Sweden. By the 18th century, it had spread across Europe and reached North America during colonial times. It was initially called “Swedish Turnip” due to its Scandinavian roots, but the name was eventually shortened to rutabaga, a combination of the Swedish words rot (root) and bagge (lump).

Rutabagas have been cultivated since the 18th century and are important commercial crops in many parts of Europe, North America, and Australia. In recent years they have become increasingly popular as a source of dietary fiber and other health benefits, such as their high vitamin C content. They are also used in traditional dishes such as stews, soups, mashed potatoes, curries, and pies.

Rutabaga can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways. It can be boiled or steamed before being added to soups, stews, and curries. These can also be mashed, roasted, or fried to make side dishes. It is often used with potatoes and vegetables such as onions, carrots, parsnips, and celery roots. The leaves of the rutabaga plant are edible and can be cooked as a green vegetable.

Rutabagas are an excellent source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. They are low in fat and calories and contain potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and selenium. They also have some antioxidant properties that may help protect against certain diseases.

Types of Rutabaga:

  1. Swedish Turnip: This variety is the most common type of rutabaga available, and it has yellowish-orange skin with white flesh underneath. Its taste is similar to a potato or turnip but has unique sweetness. It’s also high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, making it an excellent nutrition source.
  2. Purple Top Turnip: This variety of rutabaga has bright purple skin and white flesh underneath. Its flavor is slightly milder than the Swedish turnip but still sweet and earthy. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, calcium, and potassium, making it a great choice for those who want more nutrition from their meals.
  3. American Purple Top Turnip: This variety has purple-tinted skin and yellow flesh underneath with a slightly sweeter flavor than other varieties. It’s also high in fiber and vitamins A, C, E, and K, making it a great addition to any diet.
  4. Japanese White Turnip: This variety of rutabaga has white skin and white flesh underneath. It has a mild, sweet taste similar to the Swedish turnip but less bitter. It’s also high in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium, making it an excellent choice for those looking for more nutrition in their meals.
  5. Red Beetroot Rutabaga: This variety of rutabaga is red on the outside and white on the inside. Its flavor is slightly sweeter than other varieties, and it’s packed with vitamins A, B6, C, and E and minerals like iron and magnesium, making it an excellent addition to any meal.

Rutabagas come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and colors. No matter what type you choose, they’re all packed with nutrients that make them a great addition to any diet. Whether you enjoy the mild sweetness of the Swedish turnip or the vibrant purple color of the American Purple Top Turnip, there will surely be a rutabaga that fits your taste preferences and nutritional needs!

Nutritional Value of Rutabaga Root: 

Rutabaga root is a good source of dietary fiber, containing approximately 5 grams per 100-gram serving. This high amount of fiber helps promote digestive health and can help reduce cholesterol levels in the body. Rutabaga also contains numerous essential vitamins and minerals such as C, B6, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. A serving provides about 30% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C.

Health Benefits: 

Due to its high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, Rutabaga root can provide various health benefits. Eating this vegetable may help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. It is also known to improve digestion and help regulate blood sugar levels. Additionally, Rutabaga contains chemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties which can be beneficial in managing conditions like arthritis or asthma.

Overall, Rutabaga root has many nutritional benefits, making it an ideal addition to any diet. This vegetable provides essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that help promote digestive health and reduce cholesterol levels.

Uses of Rutabaga Root: 

Rutabaga root can be used in various dishes, from stews to soups to roasted vegetables. The root itself has many uses as well, including:

  • Roasting: Roasted rutabaga root provides a sweet, caramelized flavor and texture. It can be used as a side dish or mixed with other vegetables for a hearty meal.
  • Mashing: Mashed rutabaga root often serves as an alternative to mashed potatoes. The sweetness of the root pairs well with butter, cream, and spices to create a flavorful side dish.
  • Soups and Stews: Rutabaga root adds both flavor and texture to soups and stews, making them more nutritious and filling.
  • Salads: Rutabagas can be cubed or sliced and added to salads for additional flavor and crunch.
  • Baked goods: Grated rutabaga root can be used instead of some of the flour in recipes like muffins, cakes, and bread.
  • Pickling: Pickled rutabaga root is a popular condiment that uniquely flavors dishes.

How to Plant Rutabaga Root?

In this section, we will discuss how to plant rutabaga root from start to finish so you can produce an amazing rutabaga crop each season.

Getting Started:

Before planting your rutabaga root, make sure to choose a location with full sun exposure and rich soil that drains quickly. Loose soil allows the roots of plants to easily spread out and take up all the nutrients they need for optimal growth. You also want to ensure plenty of space for the rutabaga plant to mature – about two feet between each root fully. It’s best to avoid planting in compacted soil or too wet soil as it can lead to root rot.

Preparing Your Rutabaga Seeds:

When selecting your rutabaga seeds, ensure they are firm and free from disease or mold. You can also buy pre-treated seedlings or sets, which are easier to plant since they have already been hardened. You’ll need a planting tool such as a trowel and some organic fertilizer for additional nutrients to plant rutabaga. Please don’t disturb the roots when planting; this may damage them and hinder growth.

Caring for Your Rutabaga plant:

Once your rutabaga is planted, you must ensure it receives plenty of water. Rutabaga plant is drought-tolerant and can survive without regular watering. Still, they will grow better if given a few inches of water every week or so during the growing season. When temperatures get colder, reduce the amount of water and be sure to mulch around the plant to keep its roots warm throughout the winter months. You may also want to use an organic fertilizer at least once a season to support your rutabaga plant growth.

Harvesting Your Rutabaga:

Rutabaga plant take several weeks to reach maturity and are typically ready for harvest once they’ve reached a diameter of two to three inches. You can tell if the vegetable is ripe by gently pressing on its skin; it should be slightly firm but still yield to pressure. Once you’ve harvested your rutabaga, store it in a cool place for up to one month or longer if it is cured properly.

Now that you know how to plant rutabaga root from start to finish, you can look forward to having a successful crop each season! With proper care and attention, your rutabagas will be full of flavor and nutrition throughout their growing season. 

How to Care for and Grow Rutabaga plant?

To ensure your success, there are a few tips on caring for and growing rutabaga roots effectively.

Planting Tips: 

When planting rutabaga seeds outdoors, wait until after the last spring frost when soil temperatures have risen above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 Celsius). Plant seeds about ½ inch deep into the soil and at least 8 inches apart. Keep the area weed-free and well-watered until the seedlings emerge in 7 to 10 days.

Caring for Rutabaga Roots: 

Rutabagas need plenty of sunlight, water, and nutrient-rich soil to thrive. Please provide them with at least 1 inch of water weekly. During dry periods, you may need to increase watering frequency slightly. Fertilize your rutabaga plant every few weeks with a balanced vegetable fertilizer. Mulching around the roots of the rutabaga plant can help retain moisture and prevent weeds from taking over. Additionally, avoid walking or driving on the ground where rutabaga plant is growing to prevent compaction.

Harvesting Rutabaga Roots: 

Rutabaga roots are typically ready for harvest approximately 90 to 100 days after planting. They can be harvested sooner for juicing or other purposes where size is less important. To harvest, pull the root from the ground and cut the leaves close to the root. Store rutabaga roots in a cool, dry place for up to several months.

You can enjoy a bumper crop of delicious rutabaga root by following these tips! With proper care and maintenance, you can grow this nutritious vegetable in your home garden and enjoy its sweet flavor all season long.

ready to harvest rutabaga

Preventions from Pests and Diseases of Rutabaga Root : 

Unfortunately, just like other vegetables, it is prone to attacks from pests and diseases if not taken care of properly. This section will discuss the different types of pests and diseases that attack Rutabaga roots as well as prevention tips to keep them healthy.

Types of Pests & Diseases : 

The most common pests that attack Rutabaga roots are aphids, whiteflies, thrips, mealybugs, and nematodes.

  • Aphids are small green insects with piercing-sucking mouthparts that feed on the sap of plants. They can cause stunted growth and yellowing leaves. 
  • Whiteflies are tiny white insects that suck plant juices and excrete sticky honeydew, which can lead to sooty mold. 
  • Thrips are small, slender insects with fringed wings that feed on foliage and flowers. 
  • Mealybugs are small, soft-bodied insects covered in white, waxy filaments that suck plant sap from stems and leaves. 
  • Nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on roots and reduce nutrient uptake by the plant.

Prevention Tips : 

There are several steps you can take to prevent pests and diseases from attacking your Rutabaga root:

  1. Start by choosing disease-resistant varieties when planting to ensure you start with healthy plants.
  2. Monitor your garden regularly and look for signs of pests or diseases, such as discoloration, wilting, or leaf lesions.
  3. Practice crop rotation by planting Rutabaga in different parts of the garden yearly to reduce disease build-up and break pest life cycles.
  4. Remove any infected foliage from the plant as soon as possible and dispose of it away from the garden.
  5. Keep weeds under control to reduce potential hiding places for pests and avoid overcrowding when planting Rutabaga to improve air circulation, reducing humidity levels and making it harder for fungal diseases to thrive.
  6. Use insecticidal soaps and neem oil to control aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and mealybugs.
  7. If nematodes are problematic in your area, you can treat the soil with beneficial nematodes before planting Rutabaga.

Rutabaga is a tasty root vegetable that provides many health benefits when eaten but it’s also susceptible to attack from pests and diseases if not taken care of properly. By following these prevention tips, you can ensure that your Rutabaga root stays healthy and free from these pesky pests.

harvested rutabaga

How to Harvest Rutabaga Root?

The best time to harvest rutabaga roots is when they mature – typically around four months after planting. The roots should be firm, heavy for their size, and have a golden-yellow color on their skin. There are two ways to harvest your rutabagas: either by hand or with a tool such as a spading fork.

Harvesting by Hand: 

The easiest way to harvest rutabagas is by hand. To do this, carefully use your hands to loosen the soil around the root and pull it gently from the ground. Once you have pulled it out of the soil, brush off any remaining dirt and put it in a container for transport.

Harvesting with a Tool: 

If you’re harvesting more than one or two rutabagas, using a tool will help make the process easier. A spading fork can be used to loosen and lift large clumps of soil that contain multiple roots. Ensure not to damage any of the roots while digging them up. Once you have all the rutabagas freed from the soil, brush off any remaining dirt and place them in a container for transport.

Harvesting rutabaga root is an easy process requiring no special tools or equipment. All you need is a little patience and some gentle hands. With proper storage, your rutabaga root will last for several weeks. Enjoy this delicious, nutritious vegetable fresh or cooked in your favorite recipe.

How to Store Homegrown Rutabaga Root?

The rutabaga is an excellent addition to any garden as a root vegetable. It’s hard and requires little maintenance, making it a great choice for beginner gardeners.

Once you’ve harvested your crop of rutabagas, you must know how to store them properly to make them last as long as possible. Here are some tips on how to store homegrown rutabagas for maximum freshness and flavor:

  1. Choose good-quality rutabagas – The key to successful storage begins when selecting which rutabagas to harvest from your garden. Look for firm, heavy roots that have smooth skins with no signs of decay.
  2. Cure them first – After you’ve harvested your rutabagas, it’s important to cure them before storing them. Please place them in a cool, dark place and allow them to sit for two weeks. This allows the skins to harden and will help extend their storage life.
  3. Store correctly – Once you’ve cured your rutabagas, store them in a cool (32-40°F), dry location away from direct sunlight. You can put them in plastic bags or boxes lined with newspaper or paper towels for extra protection against moisture. Make sure to check on the roots every few days and discard any that show signs of spoilage or rot.

With these storage tips, you can enjoy your homegrown rutabagas all winter long!

How to use Homegrown Rutabaga Root?

There are many different ways to enjoy rutabaga, but what are the uses of rutabaga root beyond traditional cooking? Here are a few ways you can take advantage of this versatile vegetable.

  1. Nutritious Snack: Rutabaga is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, making it a great snack option for those watching their waistlines or trying to get enough nutrients in their diet. It can be eaten raw like a carrot, or you can cut it into slices and bake them with a little olive oil and seasonings for a delicious snack.
  2. Baked Treats: Rutabaga also makes great ingredients for baked goods. You can use grated rutabaga instead of potatoes in hash browns, potato pancakes, or mashed potato dishes. You can also add rutabaga to muffins, cakes, and bread for a sweet flavor and added nutrition.
  3. Soups: Rutabaga is a great addition to soups – especially cream-based soups like chowder or bisque. When cooked, it adds a rich flavor and creamy texture, making it an easy way to upgrade your soup in no time.
  4. Side Dishes: Rutabaga can be boiled, mashed, roasted, stir-fried, or steamed and served as side dishes with proteins such as beef, pork, chicken, or fish. It’s an excellent source of fiber and other nutrients, making any meal more nutritious and satisfying.
  5. Pie: Believe it or not, rutabaga can also be used in the pie! Try using grated rutabaga in place of potatoes in a shepherd’s pie or swap out your pumpkin puree for mashed rutabaga when making pumpkin pie. It will add a unique flavor that everyone will love.

By now, you should better understand the uses of Rutabaga root beyond its traditional cooking applications. Whether you are looking for healthy snacks, delicious side dishes, or unique pies and baked goods, this versatile vegetable has you covered. So don’t be afraid to experiment with rutabaga in your kitchen – it might become one of your new favorite ingredients!

rutabaga uses

Bonus Points: How to Cook with Rutabaga?

While rutabaga is a versatile vegetable, it cannot be very comforting to cook with if you’re not familiar with it. Here are some tips for cooking with rutabaga to make the most of this nutrient-packed vegetable.

  1. Preparing: Before cooking with rutabaga, peel off its tough outer skin. This can be done using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. Once peeled, wash the rutabaga under cold running water and cut it into cubes or slices, depending on your desired use.
  2. Boiling: Rutabaga can be boiled in a large pot of salted water for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain, mash, and season as desired before serving.
  3. Baking: To bake rutabaga, preheat the oven to 375°F and lightly grease a baking dish with oil or butter. Place the cubed rutabaga in the dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes until fork-tender and golden brown.
  4. Roasting: To roast rutabaga, preheat the oven to 425°F and lightly grease a baking sheet with oil or butter. Place the cubed rutabaga on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes until tender and golden brown.
  5. Stir Frying: Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat to stir fry rutabaga. Add cubed rutabaga to the skillet and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and other desired herbs or spices. Stir fry for 8-10 minutes until tender but still crisp.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to cook up delicious dishes using this nutrient-packed vegetable!

Potential Risks from Rutabaga Root Consumption: 

Regarding potential risks, one must consider dietary allergies and sensitivities. Rutabagas are a member of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes cauliflower, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts. People with an allergy or sensitivity to any of these foods should also avoid consuming rutabaga root.

Another potential risk is contamination with heavy metals or herbicides that can occur when the root vegetable is grown in contaminated soils. While this danger is minimal in organic produce, it could still be present if conventional methods were used to grow the rutabaga. Therefore, buying certified organic produce whenever possible is important to ensure you’re not exposed to any potential health risks.

In addition, some evidence suggests eating too much of certain brassicas, including rutabagas, may increase the risk of thyroid cancer due to their goitrogenic properties. Goitrogens are substances that can interfere with thyroid hormone production, which could lead to an enlarged thyroid (goiter). Therefore, it’s important to consume these vegetables in moderation and be mindful of other sources of goitrogens in your diet.

Finally, rutabaga root can produce gas when consumed in excess which can be uncomfortable for some people. To reduce this effect, cooking them thoroughly before consuming them and never eating large amounts at once is best.

Minimizing Risk and Enjoying the Benefits : 

The potential risks associated with consuming rutabaga root can be easily minimized by following simple precautions:

  1. Always buy certified organic produce to minimize exposure to any contaminants in the soil.
  2. It’s important to be mindful of any dietary allergies or sensitivities when selecting root vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae family.
  3. It’s best not to eat large amounts of brassicas at once and cook them thoroughly before consuming them to reduce the risk of gas production.

By considering these precautions, you can enjoy all of the nutritional benefits that rutabagas offer without worrying about potential risks from their consumption. Rutabagas are a delicious root vegetable that can be used in various dishes and provide essential nutrients to help keep you healthy. So go ahead and enjoy the wonderful flavors and unique health benefits of rutabagas without having to worry about potential risks!


Rutabaga is a nutritious root vegetable that can be enjoyed in many different ways. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it offers several health benefits. Rutabaga is also low in calories and carbohydrates, making it a great addition to any weight loss or maintenance diet. Try rutabaga if you’re looking for a new vegetable to add to your repertoire! Just be sure to buy organic and wash it well before consuming.

Mitch Baylis