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In the past, rutabaga was consumed mostly out of need, as one of the few vegetables available during harsh winter months or wartime. But in the last few years, it's gained popularity and is celebrating an impressive comeback in modern cuisine.

Nowadays, the winter vegetable is served as modern rutabaga fries, in creamy soups and classic stews, low-calorie purées, and more. Want to know more about rutabaga? You've come to the right place–we'll tell you everything you need to know about the root vegetable and share 3 new recipes to try!

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1. Hello, my name is rutabaga

The rutabaga is a classic autumn and winter vegetable that, botanically speaking, is a hybrid between an autumn turnip and a cabbage. Since rutabagas don't demand very specialized conditions to grow, they are cultivated in various parts of the world with a moderate climate. In some countries, they are are known as the 'Swedish turnip' or 'Swede,' even though the exact origin of the rutabaga is unknown.

Rutabagas are recognized by their round-oval shape and beige to reddish brown peel. Their taste can be described best as bitter-sweetish, which is why they are often compared with parsnips or cabbage. A basic rule to remember: The smaller the turnips, the more delicate the flavor. Larger rutabagas can taste woody.

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With only a few calories and carbs, but packed with nutritional value, rutabagas are considered a light and healthy vegetable. Their range of vitamins is particularly remarkable: Rutabagas contain a large amount of vitamin C (which is known to strengthen the body’s defenses), vitamin K (particularly important for blood clotting), vitamin E, numerous B vitamins, including folic acid and beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A when digested and supports our eyesight.

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2. When (and how) to buy perfect rutabagas

Rutabagas are mainly harvested from October to November, but since they are easily stored, you'll find them until March. Best check with your local farmer's markets or supermarkets with a large selection of local vegetables. When they are not in season, you usually get them from storage from Northern Europe or even frozen.

To find a perfect rutabaga, make sure to look out for one with a smooth, undamaged peel, and firm flesh. Hands off rutabagas with brown spots or wilted leaves, which are caused by a lack of freshness.

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3. How to store fresh rutabaga

Rutabagas are best kept in cooled and dry places. Stored in the vegetable compartment of your fridge, they will easily last for up to three weeks–in a cooled basement, they'll even keep fresh for up to three months. If you used only a part of the rutabaga, make sure to cover the cut surface with plastic wrap, or else they'll dry out quickly.

However, it's crucial that the vegetable doesn't get in contact with water before or during the storage, as this may cause premature molding. If you've bought a large amount of rutabagas, simply blanch and freeze them in portions–this way they'll keep fresh for up to 6 months.

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4. All the ways to enjoy rutabagas

Since the peel of rutabagas are often covered with coarse dirt, you should first thoroughly clean them under running water and use a vegetable brush to remove any stubborn stains. Once the rutabaga is clean, remove the stem and cut off both ends. Halve or quarter it, then remove the skin with a peeler. Afterwards, you can prepare the rutabaga according to your recipe.

From rutabaga stew to rutabaga purée, the variety of possible recipes is endless. You can cook and roast it, or even eat it raw. To prepare easy rutabaga fries, cut them into sticks, marinate with olive oil and spices and bake until they are crispy and golden brown. The baking time depends on the size of the sticks as well as the temperature during preparation. Here are some other ideas to prepare rutabaga:

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5. What to make next

We'll be releasing new rutabaga recipes all week, so keep checking back! Here’s where to start:

Rutabaga wedges with dip

Rutabaga wedges with dip

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Rutabaga curry

Rutabaga curry

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Rutabaga hash with bacon and apples

Rutabaga hash with bacon and apples

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How do you like to prepare rutabagas? Let us know in the comments below or share your best rutabaga recipe with us at community@kitchenstories.com!

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