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Getting to the root of a tasty use for an overlooked vegetable

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Once upon a time, root vegetables were staples of our winter diet, simply because they stored well and we didn’t have the plethora of fresh – or “fresh” – fruits and vegetables readily available today.

Some have remained year-round parts of many diets – think potatoes, onions and carrots – while others are much less sexy – think of turnips and rutabagas. This recipe for Creamy Gingered Rutabaga gives the root crop its due. Incidentally, turnips and rutabagas are often considered to be the same, though that’s not the case: they’re different plants.

Turnips are part of the cabbage family, along with mustard and radish, for example.

The rutabaga was ‘discovered’ in northern Europe, a chance cross between a turnip and a cabbage. It was first recorded in 1620, in Sweden, where it was very popular, thus giving it the names ‘Swedish turnip’ and ‘swede.’ It was gradually introduced throughout Europe and North America during the 1700s and 1800s, and adopted readily in Canada because it is well suited to cool northern climates. During the 1800s and early 1900s, rutabagas were an important livestock feed, often substituted for turnips.

So, rutabagas it is in this case. Contrary to its image, this recipe really delivers a zesty flavour change. It freezes well and is a good use for leftover mashed rutabaga.

Creamy Gingered Rutabaga

  • 1 small rutabaga (1/2 lb/250 g), cubed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cubed cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. each of ground ginger and salt
  • A pinch each of ground nutmeg and pepper

Cut one small rutabaga into cubes, about 4 cups/1 L. Cook covered, in a 4-cup casserole dish in a 1/4 cup of water on high for 10 minutes or until fork tender; drain well and mash.

Stir in 1/2 cup cubed cream cheese, the brown sugar, the ground ginger and salt and a pinch each of ground nutmeg and pepper.

Note: This microwave recipe was tested in a 700-watt microwave oven. Power level terminology in microwave ovens varies; check your owner’s manual and use whichever word or number gives you the same percentages as in the recipe (high is always 100%). If your oven differs, cooking times may vary.

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