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Saturday, February 26, 2011


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Brassica
Species: B. napobrassica
Binomial name
Brassica napobrassica
(L.) Mill.
The rutabaga, swede (from Swedish turnip), or yellow turnip (Brassica napobrassica, or Brassica napus var. napobrassica, or Brassica napus subsp. rapifera) is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip; see Triangle of U. The roots are prepared for food in a variety of ways, and its leaves can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable.


  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 History
    • 2.1 Botanical history
  • 3 Preparation and use
  • 4 Phytochemistry
  • 5 Activities involving rutabagas


"Rutabaga" is the common American and Canadian term for the plant. It comes from the Swedish word Rotabagge, meaning simply "root bag". "Swede" is the preferred term used in much of England, Wales, Australia and New Zealand. In the U.S., the plant is also known as "Swedish turnip" or "yellow turnip", while in Ireland, it is referred to as "turnip". The name turnip is also used in parts of Northern and Midland England, Cornwall and Atlantic Canada. In Scots, it is either "tumshie" or "neep",[1] and Brassica rapa var. rapa, termed a "turnip" in southern English usage, instead is called a "white turnip" as in Ireland. Scots will refer to both types by the generic term "neep" (from Old English næp, Latin napus).[1][2] Some will also refer to both types as just "turnip" (the word is also derived from næp).[2] In North-East England, turnips and swedes are colloquially called "snaggers" (archaic). They should not be confused with the large beet known as a mangelwurzel. Its common name in Sweden is kålrot (literally "cabbage root"), similarly in Denmark it is known as kålroe, while in Norway it has usurped the name of kålrabi in addition to being known as kålrot.


Harvested roots

Cut through a root
The first known printed reference to the rutabaga comes from the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin in 1620, where he notes that it was growing wild in Sweden. It is often considered to have originated from Scandinavia or Russia.[3] It is said to have been widely introduced to Britain around the end of the 18th century, but it was recorded as being present in the royal gardens in England as early as 1669 and was described in France in 1700. It was asserted by Sir John Sinclair in his Husbandry of Scotland to have been introduced to Scotland around 1781–1782. An article on the topic in The Gardeners' Chronicle suggests that the rutabaga was then introduced more widely to England in 1790. Introduction to North America came in the early 19th century with reports of planted rutabaga crops in Illinois as early as 1817.[4]

Botanical history

The species commonly known as swede or rutabaga has had a rich taxonomic history. The earliest account comes from the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin, who wrote about it in his 1620 Prodromus.[4] Brassica napobrassica was first validly published by Carl Linnaeus in his 1753 work Species Plantarum as a variety of B. oleracea: B. oleracea var. napobrassica.[5] It has since been moved to other taxa as a variety, subspecies, or elevated to species rank. In 1768, a Scottish botanist elevated Linnaeus' variety to species rank as Brassica napobrassica in The Gardeners Dictionary, which is the currently accepted name.[6]
Rutabagas have a diploid chromosome number of 2n = 38. It originated from a cross between turnips (Brassica rapa) and Brassica oleracea. The resulting cross then doubled its chromosomes, becoming an allopolyploid species. This relationship was first published by Woo Jang-choon in 1935 and is known as the Triangle of U.[7]

Preparation and use

Finns cook rutabagas in a variety of ways; roasted to be served with meat dishes, as the major ingredient in the ever popular Christmas dish Swede casserole (lanttulaatikko), as a major flavor enhancer in soups, uncooked and thinly julienned as a side dish or in a salad, baked, or boiled. Finns use rutabagas in most dishes that call for any root vegetable.
Swedes and Norwegians cook rutabagas with potatoes, sometimes with the addition of carrots for color, and mash them with butter and cream or milk to create a puree called rotmos (Swedish, literally: root mash) and kålrabistappe (Norwegian). Onion is occasionally added. In Norway, kålrabistappe is an obligatory accompaniment to many festive dishes, including smalahove, pinnekjøtt, raspeball and salted herring. In Wales, a similar dish produced using just potatoes and rutabagas is known as ponch maip.

Mashed rutabaga
In Scotland, rutabagas and potatoes are boiled and mashed separately to produce "neeps and tatties" ("tatties" being the Scots word for potatoes), traditionally served with the Scottish national dish of haggis as the main course of a Burns supper. Rutabagas have also been carved out and used as candle lanterns since inaugural Halloween celebrations in Scotland and Ireland.[8] Neeps may also be mashed with potatoes to make clapshot. Regional variations include the addition of onions to clapshot in Orkney. Neeps are also extensively used in soups and stews. In the English counties of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, swedes are often mashed together with carrots as part of the traditional Sunday roast.
In Canada, rutabagas are used as filler in foods such as mincemeat and Christmas cake, or as a side dish with Sunday dinner in Atlantic Canada. In the US, rutabagas are mostly eaten as part of stews or casseroles, served mashed with carrots, or baked in a pasty.


Rutabagas and other cyanoglucoside-containing foods (including cassava, maize, bamboo shoots, sweet potatoes, and lima beans) release cyanide, which is subsequently detoxified into thiocyanate. Thiocyanate inhibits thyroid iodide transport and, at high doses, competes with iodide in the organification process within thyroid tissue. Goitres may develop when there is a dietary imbalance of thiocyanate-containing food in excess of iodine consumption, and it is possible for these compounds to contribute to hypothyroidism.[9][10][11][12] Yet, there have been no reports of ill effects in humans from the consumption of glucosinolates from normal amounts of Brassica vegetables. Glucosinolate content in Brassica vegetables is estimated to be around one percent of dry matter. These compounds are also responsible for the bitter taste of rutabagas.[13]
Along with watercress, mustard greens, turnip, broccoli and horseradish, the perceived bitterness in rutabaga is governed by a gene affecting the TAS2R bitter receptor, which detects the glucosinolates in rutabaga. Sensitive individuals with the genotype PAV/PAV found rutabaga twice as bitter as insensitive subjects (AVI/AVI). For the mixed type (PAV/AVI), the difference was not significant for rutabaga.[14] As a result, sensitive individuals may find rutabaga so bitter as to be inedible.
Other chemicals that contribute to flavor and odor include glucocheirolin, glucobrassicanapin, glucoberteroin, gluconapoleiferin, and glucoerysolin.[15] Several phytoalexins that aid in defense against plant pathogens have also been isolated from rutabaga, including three novel phytoalexins that were reported in 2004.[16]

Activities involving rutabagas

A traditional Irish Halloween turnip (rutabaga) lantern on display in the Museum of Country Life, Ireland
Since early Halloween festivals in Ireland and Scotland, turnips (rutabaga) have been carved out and used as candle lanterns in windows to ward off harmful spirits.[17] Rutabagas commonly carved into decorative lanterns called jack-o'-lanterns for the Halloween season, remain popular throughout Britain and Ireland.[18]
The International Rutabaga Curling Championship takes place annually at the Ithaca Farmers' Market on the last day of the market season.[19]

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