Before potatoes were widely accepted in Russia somewhere in the 19th century, rutabaga was one of the main staples. Folks boiled, baked, roasted and dried rutabaga. They also made it into kvass and wine. Ritabaga was believed to have medicinal properties, and used for treatment of burns and wounds, as a diuretic to reduce edema, to suppress cough, to name a few.
There are a couple of theories how rutabaga came to me. One is that it appeared in Sweden as a spontaneous cross breed between turnip and wild cabbage, with the first written mentioning in 1620 (source), and the other one is that it first appeared in Siberia, and from there was introduced to Scandinavia.
Whichever theory is correct, nobody disputes that rutabaga thrives in cold climates, and has ability to retain its high antioxidant content for a very long time. That could explain its vast popularity in the areas with short summers and less available produce.
Rutabaga is highly nutritious and low in carbohydrates
Rutabaga has more vitamin C and B7 than any root and cruciferous vegetables. It contains high amount of sulfur compound glucosinolate, shown to reduce cancer (source). It is high in potassium, which helps those suffering with heart disease. Because of its high fiber and low sugar content, it may be beneficial for folks with high cholesterol and diabetes.
Rutabaga’s juice mixed with honey is a very old remedy for upper respiratory infections. The other effective folk remedy is black radish.
My experience with rutabaga
Rutabaga was one of my granda’s favorite vegetables, which is understandable since she lived in pretty harsh climates far north in Russia. My mom cannot stand it, and never cooked it when I was growing up, so I only got to eat it when visiting grandma. Recently one of the blog readers reminded about it – what an inspiration – and I’ve been cooking with it quite a bit.
Rutabaga mash with pear is delicious and detoxifying
I noticed that eating rutabaga makes me feel more rejuvenated, and undoubtly reduces swelling from eating out (compliments of work travels). I’ve been making this mash when I feel I need a cleanse, along with Dr. Bieler’s Broth. During that time, I skip the salt all together. Pear and lemon gives it a nice flavor even without salt. A couple of salt-free days makes everything taste so much more vibrant!
Make rutabaga mash a meal
You can add some milk, egg and shredded cheese to the mash, and bake it as a casserole for a complete meal. There is a traditional Finnish rutabaga dish called Lanttulaatikko that sounds really good.
Rutabaga is stinky when cooking
Think of cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli – rutabaga has similar smell when cooking. I can see how it may turn off some folks but I don’t mind it. Once it’s cooked and mixed with butter or ghee, there is no unpleasant smell to it at all.
HOW TO MAKE RUTABAGA MASH WITH PEAR
3 large rutabagas
1 pear (I used Anjou), shredded, or mashed if soft
Juice of 1/2 lemon (I prefer Meyer lemon)
Clarified butter (ghee) – to taste (how to make ghee)
Salt to taste (optional)
Peel rutabagas with a vegetable peeler; chop into 1 inch cubes.
Place chopped rutabagas in a large pot, cover with water. Bring to boil, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, until soft.
Drain well. Add shredded or mashed pear, juice of 1/2 lemon and ghee. Mash until you like the consistency.
- 3 large rutabagas
- 1 pear (I used Anjou), shredded, or mashed if soft
- Juice of ½ lemon (I prefer Meyer lemon)
- Clarified butter (ghee) - to taste (how to make ghee)
- Salt to taste (optional)
- Peel rutabagas with a vegetable peeler; chop into 1 inch cubes.
- Place chopped rutabagas in a large pot, cover with water. Bring to boil, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, until soft.
- Drain well. Add shredded or mashed pear, juice of ½ lemon and ghee. Mash until you like the consistency.
Add your favorite spices!