Potatoes are great. Mashed potatoes are even better. But there’s more to mash than the potato. You can mash sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or cauliflower…however, there’s one underutilized root veggie that I’d like to call attention to: the rutabaga.
Ok, your nose just wrinkled. Rutabaga?
You bet. They make an incredible mash.
I took over making mashed rutabaga these past few years at Thanksgiving, where my dear sweet Scottish auntie with her soothing accent calls them “turnips” so I grew up thinking she was mashing turnips. Rutabaga are in the same family as turnips and that is what they call them in Scotland, or at least, that’s what she calls them.
Members of the brassica (mustard) family, Encyclopaeda Britannica says, “Rutabagas likely originated as a cross between turnips (Brassica rapa, variety rapa) and wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea) and are thought to have been first bred in Russia or Scandinavia in the late Middle Ages”. Looking at them their turnip parentage is clear, but the cabbage part seems a little perplexing to me.
Rutabaga are certainly ugly—almost homely looking—and pretty easy to overlook.
They are large hard root vegetable usually shipped coated with a thick layer of wax. Peeling is not so terrible, but I don’t usually cut these guys when I can outsource this task to our FreshCuts and order them peeled and diced. There are a few benefits to having them all cut the same size: they will all cook the same, you get 100% yield, and there’s no labor (my labor, in this instance).
Why mashed rutabaga should be on your Thanksgiving menu
Why not? They are cheap, hearty, colorful, work in well into the autumnal menu, and they just taste darn good.
A rather inexpensive item, you are getting quite the bang for your buck by serving something a little more interesting than the standard mashed potatoes. Don’t want to go full side dish? Mix mashed rutabaga into your regular mashed potatoes to add a root veggie touch.
Even though they are starchy, to me, they don’t mash smoothly like the silky waxiness of a red or Yukon potato. I haven’t been able to achieve a true smooth consistency but I have had success with an immersion blender. With lumps abound, overlook this small detail and relish their sweet earthy and slightly turnip-like flavor. Certainly beautiful, they are golden and a bit lighter in hue than sweet potatoes. I’ve seen so many people ask, “what is this?”, take a small taste with trepidation, then fully dive in and not look back.
I follow the standard mashing procedure: boil, cream, salt, butter. I see no need to gild this overlooked lily.
Rutabaga are delicious root vegetables. Francy gives us some insight on root vegetables vs. tubers
Rutabaga fit right in with your autumnal or winter menus, and are a root vegetable that is available year round.
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