Friday, November 14, 2008

Rutabaga Central

Last Friday, my kitchen was Rutabaga Central as I cooked up the Brassica napobrassica harvested from my garden. Rutabaga was a trial crop this year. We've really only eaten it at Thanksgiving and Christmas as part of a Prichard Tradition. And, don't you know, that one seed packet contained a lot of seeds. My prolific harvest of these root vegetables have led me to know more about this marginal crop than I'd ever imagined.

A little research uncovered these facts:
In the U.S., the plant is also known as Swedish turnip, yellow turnip, or wax turnip, while in Ireland and Candada where it is called turnip. In Scotland, it is either "tumshie" or "neep."
"Swede" was an important nutritional source for many Finno-Urgic tribes before the introduction of potatoes. Some claim the vegetable is native to Sweden, but others think it was introduced to Sweden, possibly from Finland or Siberia, in the early 17th century. From Sweden, it reached Scotland, and from there it spread to the rest of Great Britain and to North America.
In continental Europe, it acquired a bad reputation during World War I, when it became a food of last resort. In the German Steckr├╝benwinter (rutabaga winter) of 1916–17, large parts of the population were kept alive on a diet consisting of swedes and little else, after grain and potato crop failures had combined with wartime effects. After the war, most people were so tired of swedes that they came to be considered "famine food," and they have retained this reputation to the present day. As a consequence, they are rarely planted in Germany.

You can go to a Wikipedia article for further reading. Follow these links for Nutritional Information chart and great recipes. Another blog article, Rutabaga, Rutabaga, Rutabaga is a great dissertation on the beauty and commonness of the vegetable. Right here in our own state, you can attend the Askov Festival and Rutabaga Festival (in Askov, MN)

Here at Rutabaga Central, I peeled, diced, boiled (or blanched) and mashed that yellowish, slightyly sweet smelling vegetable.

While the rutabaga was cooking, I finished cleaning up my leeks and onions.

My freezer now has a good quantity of that humble vegetable, the rutabaga. Considering it's non-stellar history, I'm inclined to think that this is a great addition to our Thanksgiving table. This "famine food" serves as a reminder that even in the direst of times, we can find something to sustain us.

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