Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Brassica
Species: B. napobrassica
Binomial name
Brassica napobrassica
(L.) Mill.

The rutabaga, swede (from Swedish turnip)[1], turnip or yellow turnip (Brassica napobrassica, or Brassica napus var. napobrassica, or Brassica napus subsp. rapifera) is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip; see Triangle of U. The roots are prepared for food in a variety of ways, and its leaves can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable.



Rutabaga is the common American and Canadian term for the plant. It comes from the old Swedish word Rotabagge, meaning simply "root bag". "Swede" is the preferred term used in England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and many other parts of the world that use British English as a standard.[citation needed] In the U.S., the plant is also known as "Swedish turnip" or "yellow turnip", while in Ireland, it is referred to as "turnip". The name turnip is also used in parts of Northern and Midland England, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. In Scots, it is either "tumshie" or "neep",[2] and Brassica rapa var. rapa, termed a "turnip" in southern English usage, instead is called a "white turnip" as in Ireland. Scots will refer to both types by the generic term "neep" (from Old English næp, Latin napus).[2][3] Some will also refer to both types as just "turnip" (the word is also derived from næp).[3] In North-East England, turnips and swedes are colloquially called "snaggers" (archaic). They should not be confused with the large beet known as a mangelwurzel.

Its common name in Sweden is kålrot (literally "cabbage root"), similarly in Denmark it is known as kålroe, while in Norway it has usurped the name of kålrabi in addition to being known as kålrot. The Finnish term is lanttu, of the same root as English "to plant", since it is usually planted from pre-grown saplings.


Harvested roots
Cut through a root

The first known printed reference to the rutabaga comes from the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin in 1620, where he notes that it was growing wild in Sweden. It is often considered to have originated from Scandinavia or Russia.[4] It is said to have been widely introduced to Britain around the end of the 18th century, but it was recorded as being present in the royal gardens in England as early as 1669 and was described in France in 1700. It was asserted by Sir John Sinclair in his Husbandry of Scotland to have been introduced to Scotland around 1781–1782. An article on the topic in The Gardeners' Chronicle suggests that the rutabaga was then introduced more widely to England in 1790. Introduction to North America came in the early 19th century with reports of planted rutabaga crops in Illinois as early as 1817.[5]

Botanical history

The species commonly known as swede or rutabaga has had a rich taxonomic history. The earliest account comes from the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin, who wrote about it in his 1620 Prodromus.[5] Brassica napobrassica was first validly published by Carl Linnaeus in his 1753 work Species Plantarum as a variety of B. oleracea: B. oleracea var. napobrassica.[6] It has since been moved to other taxa as a variety, subspecies, or elevated to species rank. In 1768, a Scottish botanist elevated Linnaeus' variety to species rank as Brassica napobrassica in The Gardeners Dictionary, which is the currently accepted name.[7]

Rutabagas have a diploid chromosome number of 2n = 38. It originated from a cross between turnips (Brassica rapa) and Brassica oleracea. The resulting cross then doubled its chromosomes, becoming an allopolyploid species. This relationship was first published by Woo Jang-choon in 1935 and is known as the Triangle of U.[8]

Preparation and use

Finns cook rutabagas in a variety of ways; roasted to be served with meat dishes, as the major ingredient in the ever popular Christmas dish Swede casserole (lanttulaatikko), as a major flavor enhancer in soups, uncooked and thinly julienned as a side dish or in a salad, baked, or boiled. Finns use rutabagas in most dishes that call for any root vegetable.

Swedes and Norwegians cook rutabagas with potatoes, sometimes with the addition of carrots ("for the color"), and mash them with butter and either stock, milk or cream to create a puree called rotmos (Swedish, literally: root mash) and kålrabistappe (Norwegian). Onion is occasionally added. In Norway, kålrabistappe is an obligatory accompaniment to many festive dishes, including smalahove, pinnekjøtt, raspeball and salted herring. In Wales, a similar dish produced using just potatoes and rutabagas is known as ponch maip.

Mashed rutabaga

In Scotland, rutabagas and potatoes are boiled and mashed separately to produce "neeps and tatties" ("tatties" being the Scots word for potatoes), traditionally served with the Scottish national dish of haggis as the main course of a Burns supper. Rutabagas have also been carved out and used as candle lanterns since inaugural Halloween celebrations in Scotland and Ireland.[9] Neeps may also be mashed with potatoes to make clapshot. Regional variations include the addition of onions to clapshot in Orkney. Neeps are also extensively used in soups and stews.

In parts of the United Kingdom rutabagas are called swedes. They are regularly eaten mashed as part of the traditional Sunday roast. Often they are boiled together with carrots and served either mashed or pureed with butter and ground pepper. The highly flavoured cooking water is often retained for soup, or as an addition to gravy. Swedes are an essential vegetable component of the traditional Welsh lamb broth called cawl.

In Canada, rutabagas are used as filler in foods such as mincemeat and Christmas cake, or as a side dish with Sunday dinner in Atlantic Canada. In the US, rutabagas are mostly eaten as part of stews or casseroles, served mashed with carrots, or baked in a pasty.

In Australia, rutabagas (also known as swedes) are used in casseroles, stews and soups as a major flavour enhancer.


Rutabagas and other cyanoglucoside-containing foods (including cassava, maize (corn), bamboo shoots, sweet potatoes, and lima beans) release cyanide, which is subsequently detoxified into thiocyanate. Thiocyanate inhibits thyroid iodide transport and, at high doses, competes with iodide in the organification process within thyroid tissue. Goitres may develop when there is a dietary imbalance of thiocyanate-containing food in excess of iodine consumption, and it is possible for these compounds to contribute to hypothyroidism.[10][11][12][13] Yet, there have been no reports of ill effects in humans from the consumption of glucosinolates from normal amounts of Brassica vegetables. Glucosinolate content in Brassica vegetables is estimated to be around one percent of dry matter. These compounds are also responsible for the bitter taste of rutabagas.[14]

Along with watercress, mustard greens, turnip, broccoli and horseradish, the perceived bitterness in rutabaga is governed by a gene affecting the TAS2R bitter receptor, which detects the glucosinolates in rutabaga. Sensitive individuals with the genotype PAV/PAV found rutabaga twice as bitter as insensitive subjects (AVI/AVI). For the mixed type (PAV/AVI), the difference was not significant for rutabaga.[15] As a result, sensitive individuals may find rutabaga so bitter as to be inedible.

Other chemicals that contribute to flavor and odor include glucocheirolin, glucobrassicanapin, glucoberteroin, gluconapoleiferin, and glucoerysolin.[16] Several phytoalexins that aid in defense against plant pathogens have also been isolated from rutabaga, including three novel phytoalexins that were reported in 2004.[17]

Rutabaga contains significant amounts of vitamin C: 100 g contains 25 mg, which is 42% of the daily recommended dose.[18]

Non-food uses

A traditional Irish Halloween turnip (rutabaga) lantern on display in the Museum of Country Life, Ireland


Since early times,[when?] people living in Ireland and Scotland have carved turnips and used them as lanterns to ward off harmful spirits.[19] They are still popular throughout Britain and Ireland today at Halloween, [20]however their use goes back to a much earlier time. The modern traditions of Halloween have roots in a Celtic holiday called Samhain, which was celebrated throughout Western Europe, and especially Ireland, to mark the end of the summer and the final fall harvest. It was believed that this day was the beginning of the "dark season", and that at that time the door to the Otherworld was opened, allowing spirits to roam the Earth. To combat the threat, ancient Celts set bonfires across the land - fire being a common way to ward off evil spirits.[19] The practice continued throughout the region even after Christianity took hold in the Middle Ages and the festival was renamed All Hallows Eve. The bonfires were replaced with hollowed out turnips (the common name for rutabaga in Ireland, Scotland. and Northern England) filled with glowing coals. Rowdy bands of children roamed the streets in hideous masks carrying carved turnips known in Scotland as "tumshie heads".[21][22] In modern times All Hallows Eve has become known as Halloween and the carved turnips are more often simply put in the window or on the doorstep of the house. Since their purpose is to ward off evil spirits, they are carved to look as sinister and threatening as possible.[23]


The International Rutabaga Curling Championship takes place annually at the Ithaca Farmers' Market on the last day of the market season.[24]

See also


  1. ^ "swede". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  2. ^ a b The Concise Scots Dictionary, Mairi Robinson (editor) (1985)
  3. ^ a b Chambers English Dictionary (Chambers 1988), ISBN 1-85296-000-0
  4. ^ Hawkes, Alex D. 1968. A World of Vegetable Cookery. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  5. ^ a b Sturtevant, E. L. 1919. Sturtevant's Notes on Edible Plants. Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Company, p. 105.
  6. ^ International Organization for Plant Information (IOPI). "Plant Name Search Results" (HTML). International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 30 October 2009. 
  7. ^ International Organization for Plant Information (IOPI). "Plant Name Search Results" (HTML). International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 30 October 2009. 
  8. ^ Dixon, G.R. 2007. Vegetable Brassicas and Related Crucifers. CABI: Oxfordshire, UK. pp. 6–36.
  9. ^ Baxter, I. A., Schröder, M. J. A., and Bower, J. A. (1999), "The influence of socio-economic background on perceptions of vegetables among Scottish primary school children", Food Quality and Preference 10: 261–272, doi:10.1016/S0950-3293(98)00042-1 
  10. ^ Olsson, K. and Jeppsson, L. 1984. Undesirable glucosinolates in Brassica vegetables. Acta Hort. (ISHS), 163:83–84.
  11. ^ Jones, D.A. 1998. Why are so many food plants cyanogenic? Phytochemistry, 47: 155–162.
  12. ^ Delange F, Iteke FB, Ermans AM. Nutritional factors involved in the goitrogenic action of cassava. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 1982.
  13. ^ Braverman LE, Utiger RD. Werner and Ingbar's The Thyroid: A Fundamental and Clinical Text, 6th Edition 1991. J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pp. 371–2.
  14. ^ Verkerk, R., Schreiner, M., Krumbein, A., Ciska, E., Holst, B., Rowland, I., De Schrijver, R., Hansen, M., Gerhäuser, C., Mithen, R., and Dekker, M. 2009. Glucosinolates in Brassica vegetables: The influence of the food supply chain on intake, bioavailability and human health. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 53: S219-S265.
  15. ^ Mari A. Sandell and Paul A.S. Breslin. Variability in a taste-receptor gene determines whether we taste toxins in food. Current Biology Vol 16 No 18 R792. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.08.049
  16. ^ Harborne, J. B., Baxter, H., and Moss, J. P. 1999. Phytochemical dictionary: a handbook of bioactive compounds from plants. Philadelphia, PA: Taylor and Francis, Inc.
  17. ^ Pedras, M. S. C., Montaut, S., and Suchy, M. 2004. Phytoalexins from the crucifer rutabaga: structures, syntheses, biosyntheses, and antifungal activity. J. Org. Chem., 69: 4471–4476.
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b Arnold, Bettina (2001-10-31). "Bettina Arnold – Halloween Lecture: Halloween Customs in the Celtic World". Halloween Inaugural Celebration. University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee: Center for Celtic Studies. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  20. ^ They continue to be popular choices today as carved lanterns in Scotland and Northern Ireland. "Pumpkins Passions", BBC, 31 October 2005. Retrieved on 19 October 2006. "Turnip battles with pumpkin for Hallowe'en", BBC, 28 October 2005. Retrieved 23 September 2007.
  21. ^ Rogers, Nicholas. (2002) "Festive Rights: Halloween in the British Isles". Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. pp.43, p.48. Oxford University Press.
  22. ^ Bannatyne, Lesley Pratt (1998) Forerunners to Halloween Pelican Publishing Company. ISBN 1-56554-346-7 p.44
  23. ^
  24. ^

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • rutabaga — [ rytabaga ] n. m. • 1768; du suéd. rotabaggar « chou rave » ♦ Chou navet dont la racine, à chair jaune, sert à l alimentation du bétail et parfois à l alimentation humaine. Les rutabagas et les topinambours. « Nous avions la honte de nous… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Rutabaga — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Rutabaga puede referirse a: El nombre común de la planta Brassica napobrassica El nombre común de la planta Brassica napus El nombre común de la planta Brassica oleracea Obtenido de Rutabaga Categoría:… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Rutabaga — Rutabaga, die Kohlrübe, s. Raps …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • rutabaga — 1799, from Swedish dialectal (W. Götland) rotabagge, from rot root + bagge bag. Slang meaning dollar is from 1940s …   Etymology dictionary

  • rutabaga — s. f. [Botânica] Planta brassicácea, híbrida, que resulta do cruzamento do nabo com a couve …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • rutabaga — [ro͞ot΄ə bā′gə, ro͞ot′ə bā΄gə] n. [Swed dial. rotabagge < rot (< ON rot,ROOT1) + bagge, ram, thick object < ON baggi > BAG] 1. a turniplike plant (Brassica napobrassica) of the crucifer family, with a large, yellow root 2. this edible …   English World dictionary

  • Rutabaga — Brassica napus var. napobrassica …   Wikipédia en Français

  • rutabaga — UK [ˌruːtəˈbeɪɡə] / US [ˌrutəˈbeɪɡə] noun [countable] Word forms rutabaga : singular rutabaga plural rutabagas American a swede …   English dictionary

  • rutabaga — /rooh teuh bay geuh, rooh teuh bay /, n. 1. a brassicaceous plant, Brassica napobrassica, having a yellow or white fleshed, edible tuber. 2. the edible tuber, a variety of turnip. Also called Swedish turnip. [1790 1800, Amer.; < Sw (dial.)… …   Universalium

  • rutabaga — ► sustantivo femenino BOTÁNICA Especie de col con raíz muy gruesa, cultivada para el alimento del ganado. (Brassica campestris.) * * * Nabo sueco (Brassica napus) de la familia de las Crucíferas. La rutabaga, una especie bienal resistente, es una …   Enciclopedia Universal

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