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Rutabaga (Brassica napobrassica) Growing Tips and Nutrition Benefits

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How to Grow Swede Vegetable (Rutabaga)

Swede or rutabaga, scientifically known as brassica napobrassica, is part of the cabbage family and most likely is a cross between turnip and wild cabbage.

They are larger, rounder, and denser than turnips and have a yellowish and purple skin with yellow or white flesh.

Brassica napobrassica has a crisp, juicy flesh that has a sweet and slightly bitter flavor. Rutabagas originated in the Czech Republic and grow mostly in the northern sections of the United States.

They provide many nutritional benefits, including a high percentage of Vitamin C. The most common variety of this root vegetable found in the U.S. is the American Purple.

Their lower half is light yellow, but when cooked, it turns orange. A smaller variety is the Laurentian and has a burgundy top and creamy, yellow skin.

Growing Rutabaga 

Plant rutabagas in the beginning or the middle of summer.

Before the first fall frost comes, it needs 10 to 12 weeks of growing time. If you are in climes with hot summers, start seedling indoors and then put them out in cloudy weather.

You can scatter rutabaga seeds and think about spacing the seedlings later. The site selected should get full sun with well-drained soil.

Prepare the soil beforehand with compost or organic fertilizer mix. It is not good to have too much nitrogen in the beginning, so fertilize sparsely and apply the rest after the plants are weeded and thinned.

Since rutabagas can be boron-deficient, sprinkle some borax into the rows or mix it with water and sprinkle on the plants.

Plant the seeds with a two-inch interval between them, and 1/2-inch deep.

There should be a spacing of 14 to 18 inches between the rows. Once your brassica napobrassica begins to sprout, thin them about 8 inches or wider.

Never crowd them as the roots will fight to thrive.

1. Pests

Many insects attack rutabagas; among them are:

  • Flea beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Aphids
  • Cutworms
  • Wireworms
  • Slugs
  • Maggots

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

Floating row covers above the planted rows for the first few weeks can help fight against most pesky pests.

You can also plant nasturtiums through your brassica napobrassica patch to keeps aphids away.

2. Diseases

A disease that can occur in badly drained soil is clubroot, and even after 20 years, it can still be present in the soil.

This produces plants that can have roots that are distorted and have stunted growth; therefore, don’t plant rutabagas in soil where clubroot has once been detected.

Some other diseases to look out for include:

  • Root know
  • White spot anthracnose
  • Leaf spot
  • Alternaria
  • White rust

To prevent disease problems, rutabagas should not be grown in the same place for two consecutive years.

3. Caring For the Rutabagas

A few weeks after seeding, add compost or fertilizer and then again after thinning out.

Rutabaga should be watered with rainwater or irrigation, especially when the roots mature.

Control the weeds manually or with whatever methods suit best.

4. Harvesting 

The rutabaga vegetable is cool weather crop, so it’s best to leave them in the soil so they keep cool, but not in danger of freezing.

Once the first several touches of frosts have passed, harvest them, as frost helps to sweeten them.

Rutabagas will be tender when harvested with roots in diameter of 2 to 3 inches. Their taste is at a peak when the roots are in diameter of 4 to 5 inches.

Both the young tender leaves and the foliage are edible. Cut the foliage close to the crown and wash the roots.

The roots should be put to dry in a cool place.

Rutabaga Nutritional Benefits

One medium swede packs a chockfull of goodies:

  • Calories: 143
  • Calcium: 17% of the DV
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Carbs: 33 grams
  • Fiber: 9 grams
  • Magnesium: 18% of the DV
  • Vitamin E: 7% of the DV
  • Potassium: 35% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 107% of the Daily Value (DV)

Swede Vegetable Benefits

Rutabaga 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.

They contain an ample amount of glucosinolates — disease-fighting compounds that will help protect your body from oxidative stress.

Since rutabagas are naturally high in Vitamin C, they’ll protect your skin from UV damage and promote collagen synthesis. Other antioxidants in them play a vital role in protecting your skin from aging.

The veggie is a rich source of fiber and promotes healthy bacteria in your gut, which can decrease the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.

Brassica napobrassica can also help with weight loss by increasing a feeling of fullness and helping to prevent overeating.

They are naturally high in potassium that helps to regulate balance, nerve signaling, and blood pressure.

A potassium-rich diet helps to lower the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Cooking Swede

Swede can be prepared in many different ways. It can be enjoyed raw or cooked after peeling off their waxy coating.

Add the leaves to salads or soups. The vegetable has a nice sweet and slightly bitter flavor.

You can 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 the raw into salads
  • Mix them with other vegetables in stews

Rutabagas are a healthy addition to your diet, and they’re a hearty vegetable that is full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.

They’ll promote a feeling of fullness so that you won’t overeat, which will eventually help to keep your weight in check. Brassica napobrassica also offers potent compounds that are great for many different health benefits.

Swede is an easy and versatile vegetable to add to your diet, so get creative in the kitchen and enjoy its delicious taste.

Image via Flickr.com – Tim Sackton

Andre Campbell

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