Rah-Rah Rutabagas!

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We’re hyping up rutabagas today – a vegetable that is often undervalued.

Rutabagas, also known as swedes, are a hybrid of a turnip and wild cabbage. Rutabagas originated in the 17th century as a hybrid of a wild cabbage and turnip. It’s place of origin is thought to be Bohemia, Russia and Scandinavia. In the 19th century, rutabagas were found to be widespread in England, while also appearing in Canada. Today they are still a common staple food for many Northern European countries.

Fields of swedes are commonly used as food for livestock, but both the root and leaves are edible for humans as well. Rutabaga flesh can be a variety of colors, usually yellow or orange, and the skin tends to be green or purple, with an earthy and sweet flavor.

This crop tolerates periods of drought as well as cold temperatures. The root grows the most during cold periods, its flavor enhancing after exposure to frost. The leaves also retain their quality after a frost. Rutabagas prefer fertile soil that is slightly acidic and quite deep. For folks interested in using edible landscaping in their yards, rutabagas are a great option. They will suppress weeds, prevent soil erosion, and attract less insects, making them an advantageous plant to include in your landscaping.

Rutabagas offer beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, thiamin, zinc, vitamin B6, E, and K, and a significant amount of vitamin C. They also contain many antioxidants and organic compounds, specifically glucosinolates and carotenoids.

As mentioned above, the vitamin C content of swedes is remarkable. One serving of this root veggie will provide you with at least half of the needed daily amount of vitamin C. This is extremely important for your immune system as vitamin C helps stimulate the absorption of iron, and production of white blood cells and collagen, which plays an important role in healing muscles and skin.

UV light and pollution will cause free radicals that will damage your skin and cause premature aging. Antioxidants found in rutabagas, however, will neutralize these damaging free radicals, supporting graceful aging. Vitamin C is a key antioxidant that helps in this process. As mentioned before, vitamin C also encourages production of collagen which supports skin health.

Cruciferous veggies are also shown to be linked to reducing the risk of cancer. Rutabagas in particular contain the antioxidant compound glucosinolate. This compound contains sulfur and is shown to impede inflammation and tumor growth.

We’ve talked about potassium before, and its value in helping to reduce contraction of blood vessels and thus increasing blood flow and oxygenation throughout the body. This decreases the risk of blood clots and lowers blood pressure. Clearly you want to include potassium rich foods in your diet, and rutabagas are a great option as they contain 35% of the daily recommended amount!

Rutabagas have a significant amount of fiber – more than a quarter of the recommended daily amount from one serving. Fiber helps bulk up stool which then supports the digestive system and prevents constipation. This intake of fiber will also feed the healthy bacteria in the gut and help promote healthy cholesterol levels.

These root veggies also contain a small amount of protein which can be helpful to vegetarians especially and will also support a healthy metabolism.

Rutabagas can support bone health due to its rich content of minerals. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc all help maintain healthy bone tissue.

Additionally, the moderate amounts of zinc found in rutabagas, providing essential support for the body’s numerous enzymatic functions.

Rutabagas will store for a long time and can be prepared like most other root vegetables: baked, boiled, fried, mashed, raw in salads or as a snack, roasted, sautéed, cooked in soups and more. The leaves are also edible and could be prepared just as you would spinach, chard, or any other green leafy vegetable.

If you haven’t already tried rutabaga, think about expanding your preference of veggies and give this sweet root a try!

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  1. Alternative Field Crops Manual - Rutabaga by University of Wisconsin-Extension, Cooperative Extension University of Minnesota: Center for Alternative Plant & Animal Products and the Minnesota Extension Service
  2. Food Facts - How to Cook Rutabaga
  3. Healthline - 7 Powerful Health Benefits of Rutabagas by Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD
  4. Organic Facts - 9 Interesting Benefits of Rutabaga by John Staughton
  5. UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County - Rutabagas by Master Gardener Linda Rose

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