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How to Grow Swede Vegetable (Rutabaga)

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How to Grow Rutabaga (Swede) at Home

Part of the brassica family, rutabaga or swede is relatively easy to grow.

Most likely a cross between turnips and wild cabbage [1], rutabagas are larger, rounder, and denser than turnips and have yellowish and purple skin with yellow flesh.

Rutabaga has a crisp, juicy flesh that has a sweet and slightly bitter flavor. The most common variety of this root vegetable is purple tops.

Below is a basic guide on growing rutabaga at home.

Growing Rutabaga (Swede)

You can grow from seeds or cuttings that you are about to throw away.

Grow From Seed

Rutabaga roots ripen and become more flavorful in cool weather. Therefore, plant the seeds at the beginning or the middle of summer for a fall crop. It takes about 90 to 110 days from planting to reach maturity.

First, ensure that the selected site gets full sun and the soil is well-drained.

Next, prepare the soil with organic fertilizer or composted manure. However, it is not good to have too much nitrogen in the beginning, so fertilize sparsely and apply the rest after the plants are thinned out.

Plant the seeds half-inch deep into the soil, spaced half-inch apart. Also, space rows at least two feet apart. This allows for easy thinning out, weeding, and harvesting.

Once the plants begin to sprout, thin them out about 8 inches. Never crowd them as the roots will fight to thrive.

How to Grow Rutabaga From Scraps

To regrow from scraps, cut off the top section. Next, place the rutabaga top in an inch of water until roots start to appear.

Once this happens, remove it from the water and place it in a pot filled with a rich, loose potting mix. As it begins to grow bigger, transplant it from the pot into the ground.


Many insects attack rutabagas; among them are:

  • Flea beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Cabbage aphids
  • Cutworms
  • Root-knot nematode
  • Wireworms
  • Root maggots

All of these pests require some sort of natural insecticide to control and get rid of them.

Additionally, floating row covers above the rows for the first few weeks can help fight against most pesky insects. You can also plant marigolds through your rutabaga patch to keep aphids away.


A disease that mostly occurs in cool, poorly drained soil is clubroot. Moreover, the spores can survive in the soil for 20 years [2].

Clubroot can stunt plants and make roots irregularly shaped and swollen. So, don’t plant swede in the soil where clubroot was once detected.

Some other diseases to look out for include:

  • White spot
  • Anthracnose
  • Leaf spot
  • White rust
  • Downy mildew

To prevent disease problems, practice crop rotation.

Care and Maintenance 

A few weeks after planting the seeds, add compost or fertilizer, and then again after thinning out.

Also, water generously, giving at least 1 inch of water per week. Control weeds manually or with whatever method works best for you.


As mentioned, you can harvest 90 to 110 days after planting the seeds. The rutabaga vegetable is a cool-weather crop, so it’s best to leave them until the first frost passes, but not in danger of freezing.

You will know when rutabaga is ripe once the roots are 3 to 5 inches in diameter. Also, they will have purple-tinged skin and yellow flesh.

Rutabagas will be tender when harvested. Both the young tender leaves and the roots are edible. Cut the foliage close to the crown and wash the roots.

After washing, dry properly and store rutabaga roots in a cool, dry place.

Nutritional Benefits

One cup (140 g) of raw swede packs the following nutritional benefits [3]:

  • Calories: 51.8
  • Calcium: 60.2 mg
  • Protein: 1.51 g
  • Fat: 0.224 g
  • Carbs: 12.1 g
  • Fiber: 3.22 g
  • Magnesium: 28 mg
  • Vitamin E: 0.42 mg
  • Potassium: 427 mg
  • Vitamin C: 35 mg

Health Benefits

Swede benefits the body in many ways. It provides calcium, magnesium, potassium, and Vitamins C and E. It is also a great source of folate and has small amounts of phosphorus and selenium.

Additionally, they contain antioxidant properties that reduce inflammation in the body. Since rutabagas are naturally high in Vitamin C, they might protect your skin from UV damage and promote collagen synthesis.

Rutabaga is also a rich source of fiber which promotes healthy bacteria in your gut. Moreover, a high-fiber diet can help decrease the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.

Swede vegetables can also help with weight loss by increasing a feeling of fullness and helping to prevent overeating. Plus, they are naturally high in potassium which is vital for the normal functioning of all cells.

How to Cook

Swedes can be prepared in many different ways. Enjoy it raw or cooked after peeling off its waxy coating.

You can also add the leaves to salads or soups. The swede vegetable has a nice sweet and slightly bitter flavor.

Cook them in a variety of ways:

  • Boil and then mash them as you would potatoes.
  • Slice them like fries and pan-fry them.
  • Roast in the oven.
  • Add rutabaga cubes to soups.
  • Add to casserole thinly sliced.
  • Grate them raw into salads.
  • Mix them with other vegetables in stews.

Rutabaga is a healthy addition to your diet, and it’s a hearty vegetable that is full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. They’ll also promote a feeling of fullness so that you won’t overeat, which will help to keep your weight in check.


Swede is an easy and versatile vegetable to add to your diet, so get creative in the kitchen and enjoy its delicious taste. Moreover, it is fairly easy to grow and makes a great addition to a small home organic garden.

Image via Flickr.com – Tim Sackton

Andre Campbell

Organic farmer and co-founder of Dre Campbell Farm. He appreciates everything in nature—sunshine, plants, animals, and human life.

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