Rutabagas, also called "swedes" in Europe, or "yellow turnips", are believed to have evolved from a cross between a wild cabbage and a turnip sometime before the 17th century. They became popular in Scandinavia, especially Sweden, due to their ability to thrive in colder climates. In Ireland they were carved with faces for Halloween, and this tradition was brought over to America where, in the absence of rutabagas, Jack-O-Lanterns were carved into pumpkins. Rutabagas were cultivated in America starting in the late 19th century.
Rutabagas are found year-round here in California at the local farmers' market, and they keep very well (in the refrigerator up to one month, although I've used some much older than that). They can be used much the same way as potatoes in soups and stews or eaten raw chopped in salads and such. Although the rutabaga remains relatively unknown in America, it's impressive nutrition profile and delicious light sweetness and spiciness make it my favorite among root vegetables.
"Bashed neeps" (mashed "turnips") are a traditional Scottish accompaniment to haggis. The name alone is reason enough to try them, but bashed neeps are surprisingly tasty; the rutabaga is flavorful enough to be eaten on its own as a side dish, and like mashed potatoes is also delicious served with gravy. If cooked in the microwave, they are very easy to make. The original recipe calls for a bit of butter to add creaminess, but this can easily be omitted or replaced with almond or soy milk. Most recipes call for peeling the rutabagas, but I usually don't bother because I can't notice a difference and the most nutrients in vegetables are usually in the skins anyway.
Serves 4 as a side dish
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
2 smallish or 1 very large rutabaga
1-2 tablespoons unsweetened soymilk
1-2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste
Chop the rutabaga in uniform pieces, place in a glass bowl (I use a large liquid measuring cup) with about 2 tablespoons of water. Cover the bowl but allow a small crack for steam to escape. Microwave on high for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the ginger. Microwave for several more minutes, until they are soft and slightly yellow. Alternatively, cook in boiling water for 15 minutes, until tender, then drain.
Mash with a potato masher until smooth, adding the remaining ingredients to taste. Serve simply with freshly ground black pepper or top with chopped green onions, caramelized onions, or vegan gravy.