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Food Item: Turnips and Rutabagas

January 6, 2015

Turnips (Brassica rapa) and Rutabagas (Brassica napobrassica) are cousins of a sort - members of the brassica family. Rutabagas are the result of a cross between turnips and cabbage. The etymology of their respective names is confusing since some parts of the world refer to turnips as rutabagas and rutabagas as turnips while the rest of the world calls turnips, turnips and rutabagas, rutabagas. They have a bunch of other colloquialisms too if you want to go read about them. Around here I call them, "lunch". 

They were, by far, our best yielding crop from last year's garden. Partly this was my fault as I planted a lot of them. Partly it was luck that the conditions were favorable for brassicas and they did really well. The climate here is usually conducive to healthy and happy brassicas and 2014 was no exception. I have eaten one or both of these roots every day this year and anticipate the trend continuing until well into May.  I grew a lot of other roots and squash too, but it is nice to have variety at dinner when sharing meals with my family... so I get to eat most of the rutabagas.

Supposedly both are rich in vitamin C, so I guess I won't succumb to scurvy by spring. They do both contain cyanoglucosides which breakdown into cyanide. The liver detoxifies cyanide into thiocyanate, which competes with iodine for thyroid cell receptors and can ultimately result in hypothyroidism. The solution is to make sure to eat enough iodine if the diet has a lot of brassicas in it. This a major reason I eat seaweed and exempted kelp from the homegrown rule. Chances are I’d be OK without the kelp, but why even risk it?

In my opinion rutabagas taste better than turnips. Turnips tend to be more mustardy and potent. The occasional turnip even tastes too strong to be enjoyable. Rutabagas on the other hand might get a little bit bland here and there, but never too spicy. I hope by the end of the year I don't sound like a broken record, but veggies out of a properly mineralized and fertilized garden taste a lot better than most supermarket fare. Over the years I've had many a bland rutabaga from the store. My homegrown roots taste great until they've been in the cellar for 6+ months. Then they start to show their age a little, with a general loss of flavor.

Edmund Brown

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