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How to Choose Rutabagas

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Rutabagas are one of those vegetables that used to leave me scratching my head. Though a lot of recipes at this time of year seem to call for them, I had never tried one. They look kind of like a turnip but bigger—in fact, you can easily use them in the place of turnips in your favorite turnip recipes. After experimenting with rutabagas this holiday season, I have to admit, I'm a believer! Not only are they tasty, they’re super affordable and full of vitamin C, fiber and potassium. And while this veggie may be a bit of a mystery if you’ve never used it, it's easier to pick out a good rutabaga at the grocery store than you might think.

How to choose ripe rutabagas

  • Look: A ripe rutabaga will usually have purple-tinged skin. If you scratch the skin slightly you should see yellow flesh beneath. Stay away from rutabagas that are bruised or blemished. And toss that rutabaga back if you notice any green shoots coming out of it, which typically means it’s overripe.
  • Size: Look for a rutabaga that is about four inches in diameter, which means it was harvested at just the right time and should be perfectly ripe!
  • Feel: A ripe rutabaga will feel firm to the touch. If the flesh is shriveled, loose, or you notice any soft spots, that veggie is past its prime and should be avoided.
  • Weight: Hold a few rutabagas in the palm of your hand. Do some feel heavier than the others? If so, pick the ones that feel the heaviest—ripe rutabagas will feel heavy for their size.

Preparation tips

Don’t bite into that rutabaga as soon as you bring it home! Rutabagas are often sold with a food-grade wax coating on them. This keeps them from drying out while they’re stored during the winter months, but it’s definitely not tasty! Using a paring knife, cut off the top and bottom of the rutabaga so it has a flat surface to stand on. Peel off the skin and dice or cut your rutabaga into slices or chunks depending on your recipe.

How to store

Rutabagas are a very hardy vegetable. They should last about a week when left out at room temperature or for several weeks if refrigerated. Consider freezing if you want to enjoy them all year long. Just chop into cubes, blanch for 3 minutes in a pot of boiling water, drain and cool, then package in an airtight container. You can also mash up your rutabagas and store them in the freezer in a zip-top bag.

Recipe ideas

Savory: For a savory meal, dice up your rutabagas and cook them alongside pork tenderloin and diced carrots. You can also mash your rutabagas with potatoes and lemon or add diced rutabagas to your favorite pot pie recipe.

Sweet: For a healthy and sweet treat, blend rutabagas with pumpkin to make a rutabaga pie. Or make a sweet rutabaga pudding by boiling cubed rutabagas with vanilla and sugar. After draining the rutabagas, puree them and add cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.

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