Easy-to-grow softball-sized root crop is a favorite for fall and winter soups and dishes, and can also be used raw in salads. Rutabagas are often confused with turnips, but have a sweeter flavor.
Rutabaga is a member of the Brassica napus family (which also includes rapeseed). The species Brassica napus originated as a hybrid between the cabbage (Brassica oleracea) and the turnip (Brassica rapa). Rutabaga roots are eaten in a variety of ways, and the leaves can be eaten as a leaf vegetable and commonly included in European and Southeast Asian cuisine. Rutabaga can survive light frosts and love cooler temperatures however; they will bolt in prolonged heat. Rutabaga is also known by a few other names in other parts of the world, a swede, Swedish turnip, neep and even turnip in either case it is a very tasty root vegetable.
- BOTANICAL NAME: Brassica napus Napobrassica Group
- PLANT TYPE: Vegetable
- GROWTH CYCLE: Biennial grown as Annual
- SEASON: Spring Fall Winter
- USDA ZONE: 3a - 10b
- LIGHT: Full Sun Partial Shade
- SOIL TYPE: Loamy Sandy
- YIELD: 1–2 lbs. per plant
- SQUARE FEET: 4 plants per square foot
- GERMINATION: 2–14 days
- HARVEST: 80-100 days
Seed Depth: 1/4–1/2″
Plant Spacing: 1/2″, thin to 8″
Row Spacing: 18-24″
Soil Germination Temperature: 50–85°F
Days for Germination: 2–14
Sow Indoors: Not recommended
Sow Outdoors: Sow seeds outdoors approximately 3 weeks before the average last frost. Sow again in the mid to late summer for a fall harvest.
Will grow in most climate zones but prefers more temperate regions with consistent temperatures around 60–70°F. If living in a region with temperatures that are regularly hotter than this, be sure to provide rutabaga with some shade to avoid bolting, or time planting to avoid growing during the summer heat. If covered with mulch, rutabaga can overwinter in most climate zones.
Full sun. Will tolerate partial shade.
Prefers a non-compacted, sandy and loamy mixed soil. A pH of 6.2 to 6.8 will keep plants healthy and nourished. Tilling soil is a must with rutabaga so they can have plenty of room to form their solid root, so loosen soil to a depth a little more than a foot.
Water: Requires moderate levels of water. Soil should always be kept moist but not saturated. Aim for approximately 1 ½” of water every seven to 10 days, adjusting based on temperature.
Nutrients: Although rutabaga do not require large amounts of nutrients, they will benefit from having a balanced, organic compost mixed into the soil when first planted and added again every few weeks.
Foliage: Spray greens with compost or manure tea every 3 weeks if desired.
Pruning: Remove any outer leaves that become tough or yellow to help new leaves and the roots grow.
Mulching: If temperatures reach over 70°F for more than a few days, cover plants with straw to help protect them from too much sun. Mulch can also to keep soil temperatures warm during the winter.
- Cabbage worms
- Flea beetles
- Root maggots
- Wire worms
- Downy mildew
- Club root
- Leaf spot
- Root knot
- White rust
- White spot
If leaves turn red or seem stunted plants may be experiencing a boron deficiency. Apply a soluble boron solution to remedy this issue. A boron deficiency is common with rutabagas because the soil has become too alkaline to absorb it. Lime the soil to correct this over the long term.
For the rutabaga (and other members of the Brassica family), rotation is recommended every two years to prevent buildup of disease in the soil. Rotate with beans and pea crops to help keep soil healthy.
Grows well with onions, leeks, chives, garlic, and peas. Avoid planting near potato.
Roots are ready for harvest when they reach approximately 4-5″ in diameter. To collect, use a spade to gently dig around the root and lift, being careful not to cut the root itself. For best results, get your spring rutabaga dug up and out of the ground before ground temperatures reach 80°F. For fall rutabaga, it’s not as urgent to dig them up, and they can remain in the ground for storage. Apply a layer of straw if temperatures drop below freezing. Greens may be harvested when the root has reached this size as well. Pick the leaves one by one or harvest the whole top by cutting with scissors or a knife. If harvesting the greens, be aware that the more heat they are exposed to, the more bitter a flavor they will develop.
The roots of the rutabaga plant can keep for up to a couple months in the refrigerator or in a root cellar. As with other greens, rutabaga tops can be refrigerated but should be eaten with a week or so of harvesting.
Roots can be frozen by washing, peeling, and chopping into smaller pieces, blanching, and placing in freezer bags. You can also blanch and freeze leaves.
Both the greens and the root can be used. The greens can be steamed, boiled, or stir fried similarly to spinach. The root can be eaten raw, steamed, mashed, boiled, fried, baked, pureed, sautéed, and more! If cooking, cut the stem and tail off the root before preparing. Can be boiled and baked whole without peeling if desired. Just about anything you could do to a potato or a parsnip you can do to a rutabaga.
Both the root and greens of the rutabaga are excellent sources of nutrients. Rutabaga greens contain many types of vitamins such as C, E and B6, and are exceptionally rich in vitamins K and A. The greens also contain significant levels of calcium, fiber and folate. While the roots may be less rich in vitamins than their tops, they also contain vitamins C and B6. Nutrition Facts
Because they contain the compound sulforaphane, some sources have suggested that rutabaga can assist in preventing certain types of cancer such as pancreatic, prostate, and esophageal. It has also been suggested that rutabaga roots and greens can contribute to lowering blood pressure.
There are over 30 varieties of rutabaga which differ in size, color, flavor and usage with a range of root size and shapes (globe, flat, cylindrical, egg-shaped). The root colors range anywhere from scarlet red, white, gold, pink or purple-topped (most common are white, some with purple shoulders), with maturity dates ranging from 30 to 60 days.
PLANT YOUR ZONE Cooperative Extension Service by State
|Plant name||Zone||Start seeds indoors||Start seeds outdoors||Plant seedlings/transplants outdoors||Plant spacing||# plants per person|
|Rutabagas||3a||Not recommended||June 15-July 1||June 15-July 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||3b||Not recommended||June 15-July 1||June 15-July 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||4a||Not recommended||June 15-July 1||June 15-July 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||4b||Not recommended||June 15-July 1||June 15-July 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||5a||Not recommended||July 15-Aug. 1||July 15-Aug. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||5b||Not recommended||July 15-Aug. 1||July 15-Aug. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||6a||Not recommended||July 15-Aug. 1||July 15-Aug. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||6b||Not recommended||July 15-Aug. 1||July 15-Aug. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||7a||Not recommended||July 15-Aug. 1||July 15-Aug. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||7b||Not recommended||July 15-Aug. 1||July 15-Aug. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||8a||Not recommended||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||8b||Not recommended||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||9a||Not recommended||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||9b||Not recommended||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||10a||Not recommended||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||10b||Not recommended||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||Aug. 15-Sept. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||11a||Not recommended||10-12 weeks before planting outside||Feb. 15-April 1; Oct. 15-Dec. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|
|Rutabaga||11b||Not recommended||10-12 weeks before planting outside||Feb. 15-April 1; Oct. 15-Dec. 1||12-18 inches||5-10|