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Who gives a rutabaga anyway

September 17, 2009

What follows is the timeline of the rutabagas at Trapper Creek.

Why rutabagas??  I like them.  They are for the most part, resistant to root maggots.  They keep in the row all winter and into spring with a minimum of care and fussing.  Voles don’t eat them.  Did I say I like love them?  If they survive the winter, they send out copious amounts of tender flower stalks for early greens.  I like easy, workhorse, non-exotic vegetables.

Plant in June.

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Begin harvesting after first frosts.

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Mulch and dig as needed throughout the winter.

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Sample of my root crop harvest – February 2009.

For seed saving, rutabagas are biennial and need to go through a cold period and then be replanted the next spring in order to put on their flowers.  Select at least a dozen plants that show the traits that you want, for replanting for seed saving.  Replant the roots before new growth starts.

100_6227Rutabaga steckels blooming May 2009.  Replanted April 2009.


Rutabaga seed pods. 

Brassicas are insect pollinated and rutabagas will cross with Siberian Kale.  Either isolate plants that will cross or grow Kale for seed in a different year. 

When the seed pods are dry (it takes all summer.)  Pull the plants and let them continue drying in a covered area. 
To thresh, I go the high tech way and put the seed pods in a feed bag and walk on it.  It helps to do all this on a huge piece of cardboard or tarp to catch any stray seeds. 100_7391



Seed pod.



The finished product.

The entire process started June 2008, and was finished September 2009.  From a dozen plants I have enough seed to last  3 -4 years, and if I had been more careful, I would have been able to harvest more.  Birds helped themselves to plenty in the garden, and I lost a lot transporting them to the barn, but all in all the yield was quite good.

For more interesting food tips, healthy recipes and just general good sound food advice, check out Food Renegade’s – Fight Back Friday posting for September 18.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2009 10:49 pm

    Now I know how I’m going to thresh the mustard next year. Thanks.

    • September 18, 2009 5:02 am

      Steph, it works sooo good with any type of heavy oilseed like this. Lighter seeds not so much.

  2. September 18, 2009 1:53 am

    Thanks for the rutabaga tutorial. One question: I’ve had rutabagas before (and liked them a lot) – but they were almost golden in color, a very light golden. Do you know if this is just a different variety? They are certainly a good additon to winter stores.

    • September 18, 2009 5:04 am

      Mangochild, it’s just the skin, and only the top is purple – the flesh is golden. I never have seen a all golden rutabaga – sounds interesting!

      I agree with you on the winter stores, I love them mashed with or without potatoes and in stews. The pups (and the livestock) love them too!

  3. September 18, 2009 3:18 am

    Unfortunately, that is one vegie I would prefer not to know about! Yuck, but I guess it is good for everyone else that likes it!

    • September 18, 2009 5:08 am

      Yeah, it’s good there are so many types of vegetables, that’s the way I feel about canned beets – it’s always good to have lots of choices of what to eat. 🙂

  4. September 18, 2009 3:41 am

    Wow! Thanks,I was planning on trying to grow some rutabagas and save seed if I can get them going.I would have never guesses I had to replant them!

    • September 18, 2009 5:17 am

      Melodie, replanting is the best way to insure you will get the best seeds. It’s common in the seed trade to leave the plants in the ground, because it is labor intensive to replant. But by replanting you can check the root and make sure it is the right shape. Some don’t form the bulb, so you wouldn’t want that for seed saving. You also need enough plants to maintain vigor. Seed saving is getting a lot of attention and it is disheartening to read treatises that just concentrating on the act of the “saving the seed”, meaning you cold save the seed from one rutababa plant and have plenty of seed – but it would not be the proper way for this vegetable. Some plants it doesn’t matter and in some it does. It’s labor intensive to garden, we may as well make it worth our while to garden with the best seeds and varieties we can, that will produce predictable results. 🙂

  5. September 18, 2009 3:44 am

    Haha!that was supposed to be guessed not guesses.That is what I get for commenting before I have my coffee!

  6. September 18, 2009 6:58 am

    We LOVE rutabagas around her but I can’t grow them. They get woody and wormy. I usually get a sack from the hutterites after it freezes.

  7. September 18, 2009 7:12 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried Rutabagas before. I do like Daikons.

  8. September 18, 2009 8:03 am

    Can you believe I’ve never had a rutabaga? We love most other root crops, with our favorites being carrots and beets. Maybe I’ll try one this year and see if its something to add to my garden. Every year I try to add something else. I’m also trying to increase the number of root veggies we grow and eat. Right now I’m waiting for my parsnip seeds to be ready to harvest.

  9. September 18, 2009 9:36 am

    I grew and ate rutabagas for the first time this year. We are officially in love – we particularly like ’em roasted with beets in just a touch of olive oil. I only grew a small bit because I wasn’t sure if we’d like ’em. They’ll be a regular feature in our gardens from now on.

  10. September 18, 2009 9:57 am

    I had these long ago — have been growing beets year after year, and love them, and this year turnips, but while the greens are OK if a bit sharp, I’m not liking the root as much as I’d hoped — bitter-r-r-r-r! And the parsnips failed — again.

    But rutabagas, aha! Mashed, they weren’t as — bracing — as these turnips. Will add to the list for ’10. Thanks for the reminder!

    We harvested kale seed this year from one plant, which we whacked with a square pointed shovel on a tarp, then tipped out the tarp into a big steel bowl and sifted away most of the chaff with a colander. It made a cup of kale seed. I’ve been giving it away like mad and the cup doesn’t look diminished in the slightest. When mama nature makes babies, she goes all out.

  11. Kristen Fry permalink
    September 18, 2009 10:54 am

    i have never in my life had a rutabega…and now I desperately would like one…:-)

  12. September 19, 2009 8:34 am

    I knew these were also a brassica but didn’t know they were so closely related to the kales. I will definitely have to consider growing some of these next year.

  13. September 21, 2009 2:50 pm

    I do love me a rutabaga! Cubed and roasted or boiled…add a smidge of real butter, oh yeah 🙂 I don’t know if my parents brought their taste for them down from the upper states or if southerners typically eat the ‘bagas, but we did a lot growing up. SO yum! Now you have me wondering if they’ll grow down here

  14. Joyce permalink
    May 18, 2010 12:31 pm

    Was wondering if you can cook and eat the seed pod while it is still green. Looks like a string bean sort of. Just wondering.

    • May 18, 2010 8:46 pm

      Joyce, yes they are actually quite good to eat, if they are tender they are good in salads and stir fry’s. Same with radish pods 🙂

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