Root for rutabaga!

Ontario rutabagaJanuary 25 is a big night for rutabaga as Scots around the world celebrate the birth of their beloved poet Robert Burns 256 years ago.

A traditional Burns Night feast stars haggis with bashed neeps and tatties, which translates as ground offal and oatmeal cooked in a sheep’s stomach with sides of mashed rutabaga and potatoes.

In 1951, when Exeter Produce began growing the regal purple and cream-coloured roots in the heart of Huron County, north of London, Ont., its biggest customers were British immigrants.

Today, everyone’s aware of the disease-fighting powers of the cabbage family, says Exeter director and third generation grower Michael Veri, whose wife slips his mild, sweet Veri Fine rutabaga into soups and stews all winter long.

The cream-coloured flesh cooks up yellow, whether you boil it or bake it into fries.

If you’re looking for a local vegetable as prices of imports sky-rocket, rock-hard rutabaga is nutritious, delicious, low in calories and inexpensive.

Name game

Bigger than a turnip, rutabaga is also called a Swede or Swedish turnip. Its name comes from the Swedish rotbagga, meaning round vegetable.

Get waxed

The roots are dipped in food-grade paraffin wax to keep them from dehydrating, says Veri. Supermarkets able to store rutabaga in a refrigerated case sometimes ask for them unwaxed, he said. Look for waxed roots near the potatoes and onions.

Buy & Store

  • Ontario rutabaga are available year-round. They’ve been coming out of storage since September, and Veri says the new crop will start in July.
  • Look for smooth, firm roots heavy for their size.
  • Avoid woody, dull or faded-looking roots.
  • Store rutabaga in the refrigerator, especially if unwaxed.


  • Slice off top, then slice off a piece on the side so the root sits flat on the cutting board.
  • Cut into even-sized rings, then cut off the thick waxed skin with a sharp paring knife (forget the potato peeler).
  • Cut into cubes or sticks.

Micro Mash:

  • Prick whole rutabaga in several places. Wrap in paper towel and place in microwaveable dish.
  • Cook on High, turning at halftime, 14 to 17 minutes (for 1 kg), or until knife pierces centre easily.
  • Remove from microwave, wrap in foil and let stand 10 minutes. Pull away and discard waxed skin. Mash with butter, salt and pepper.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Use rutabaga in any recipe that calls for carrots or turnip, especially soups and stews.
  • Side: Cube and roast, boil, steam, stir-fry with onions, bake or mash.
  • Snacks: Serve raw rutabaga sticks with dip.
  • Salads: Chop, dice, or grate into coleslaw or carrot salad.
  • Mash: Mash rutabaga with butter, ground ginger or nutmeg. Or mash with potatoes (clapshot). Add sautéed Savoy cabbage for Scottish rumbledethumps.
  • Roast: Quarter and roast with potatoes. Add 1 tsp (5 mL) brown sugar to caramelize.


  • Cut peeled rutabaga into 1/2-inch by 3-inch (1-cm by 8-cm) sticks.
  • In a bowl, toss sticks with 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil and a pinch of salt, pepper and paprika to coat evenly.
  • Spread on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 40 minutes at 425F (220C) or until tender, flipping at half time. Pat with paper towels and serve hot.
Foodland pork rutabaga apple stew
Foodland pork rutabaga apple stew

Pork and Rutabaga Stew

 This scrumptious winter stew adapted from Foodland Ontario celebrates sweet rutabaga and other local ingredients. Serve with an Ontario Riesling or Gamay. I used Golden Delicious apples but any Ontario apple will do.

2-1/2 lb (1.2 kg) lean stewing pork, such as shoulder, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes

1/3 cup (75 mL) all-purpose flour

1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

About 4 tbsp (60 mL) vegetable oil

6 thin slices prosciutto, chopped (about 3 oz/85 g)

3 medium yellow onions, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups  apple cider

1 tsp  crumbled dried rosemary

1/2 tsp  dried sage

 3 Ontario apples, peeled, thickly sliced

4 cups peeled, diced rutabaga

1 large tomato, peeled, seeded diced

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a sturdy bag, place pork, flour, 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt and pepper. Shake well to coat evenly. Set aside.

In large skillet, heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil over medium heat. Cook prosciutto, onions and garlic 5 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to a large ovenproof casserole.

Raise heat to medium-high. Cook pork in batches until brown, adding more oil as needed. Transfer each cooked batch to casserole.

Add cider to skillet and bring to boil, scraping up any brown bits. Pour over pork. Stir in rosemary, sage, remaining 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt, apples and rutabaga. Cover pot tightly and bring to boil.

Transfer pot to preheated 350F (180C) oven. Bake, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours or until pork is very tender. (To make ahead: Prepare stew to this point, cool, cover and refrigerate for 1 day. Reheat gently.)

Just before serving, stir in tomato and parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

Slow cooker variation: Finely chop onions and cook with prosciutto and garlic as directed, transferring to slow cooker. Brown pork as directed and transfer to slow cooker. Complete recipe as directed using only 1 cup (250 mL) cider. Cover and cook, without stirring, on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours. Finish as above.Ti

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