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NUTRITION: Try out rutabaga, Duluth vegetable of the year

The Duluth Community Garden Program vegetable of 2019 is the rutabaga. The rutabaga is a root vegetable that is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. Throughout the world this plant is known by many names but the word rutabaga comes from the Swedish word rotabagge for rot (root) and bagge (bunch).

Rutabaga is a great vegetable for Duluth because it grows in cold climates; the plant can be damaged if the temperature rises above 75 degrees. Rutabagas are harvested late in the fall, often after the first frost. You can consume both the greens and the bulb, but I am going to focus on the bulb portion of the plant. If stored between 32 and 40 degrees at 95 percent humidity, rutabagas can stay fresh for about five months. In modern refrigerators, they will last a couple weeks before becoming dry and possibly sprouting. Be aware if you purchase rutabagas from the grocery store they are likely to have a wax coating to help seal in moisture.

Rutabagas are a member of the Brassica genus of plants, which also contains broccoli, cabbage and kohlrabi. These vegetables are known for having strong antioxidant properties that can reduce inflammation and help boost immune function. Rutabagas are good sources of fiber and vitamin C. One cup of rutabaga contains approximately 50 percent of your daily value of vitamin C and approximately 3 grams of fiber. It is recommended that we aim for 30 grams of dietary fiber per day, but most Americans fall short of that goal. Besides vitamin C and fiber, rutabagas contain many nutrients, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and phosphorus. Rutabagas are a bit sweeter than turnips and can be used in a variety of ways.

Rutabagas can be consumed raw or cooked. They can be shaved, shredded or mashed to be incorporated in many items such as salads, soups, stews, purees and even baked goods. I like them diced and roasted, which brings out their nutty, sweet flavor. Run the bulb through a spiralizer for rutabaga noodles. Rutabaga is commonly mashed with carrots and potatoes for a more complex tasting mash.

Roasted Rutabaga

• Heat oven to 425 degrees

• Peel rutabaga and dice into 1-inch pieces

• Lightly mist diced rutabaga with olive oil

• Optional seasonings include salt, pepper, dried thyme, nutmeg, chili powder

• Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 40 to 50 minutes until tender and golden brown

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I recently came across a recipe from Minnesota's own Daniel Klein of Perennial Plate and I have not had the chance to make it yet but am very much looking forward to trying it.

Vietnamese Rutabaga Slaw

200 grams each of juliened celery root, turnip and rutabaga (a small celery root, average sized rutabaga and a large turnip — don't worry about being exact)

1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced

1 bunch watercress

1 bunch cilantro (chopped into bite sized pieces)

3 Tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds

1 Tablespoon sunflower oil

3 Tablespoons lime juice

2 Tablespoons honey

3 teaspoons fish sauce

2 teaspoon minced garlic

In a bowl combine the lime juice, fish sauce and honey.  Mix thoroughly and let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  In a larger bowl add together all of the other ingredients (except the sunflower seeds).  Add most of the fish sauce and taste the mixture.  If you need more "oomph", add the remaining dressing.  Serve with the sunflower seeds on top as well as some of the watercress and cilantro.  Another great addition is fried shallots.

Brenda Schwerdt, RDN, LD, CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s hospital. Contact her at dietitian@slhduluth.com.

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