This month’s harvest sends us on one last trip to the root cellar before spring has really sprung! Beets and rutabagas are both vegetables that keep extremely well, in fact I just used up the last of my fall planting of beets this week!
What is a Rutabaga?
Rutabagas are a cross between savoy cabbage and turnip and were first cultivated by Scandinavians in the middle ages. They are part of the Brassicaceae family which also includes kale, radishes and cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables. When you cut into a rutabaga you will smell the cabbage-like scent, but when cooked the flavor is actually quite mild and even somewhat sweet. When boiled and mashed like a potato the end result is a little less starchy, but slightly sweet, savory and very satisfying.
What About Beets?
Beets are the most colorful of all the root vegetables and some would argue, the most flavorful. Their flavor and aroma are quite earthy due to the presence of the organic compound geosmin. When cooked, especially roasted, the sweetness of beets really comes out as the sugars are caramelized. However, they can be enjoyed raw when grated or shaved thin to add depth of flavor and crunch to a salad or sandwich. Varieties include the yellowish-orange Touchstone Gold, the deep magenta Detroit Dark Red and the red and white candy-stripped Chioggia.
Both beets and rutabagas are gown in this area in the late summer and fall and should last well into the winter if stored properly wraped in an airtight bag in the back (coldest part) of the refrigerator with the grees removed. If purchased at the grocery store it is best to use them within a couple days, but they may keep for a few weeks. Choose beets and rutabagas that are firm to the touch, unwrinkled, free of soft spots, and ideally with roots and stems intact.
Because of their flavor, beets pair well with tangy and acidic foods and most nuts. For example, a roasted beet salad with a lemon-based dressing topped with blue cheese and walnuts or pistachios is excellent way to enjoy beets. They are also fantastic boiled (and then peeled), sliced and topped with fresh herbs, a light vinagrette and a dolop of sour cream, yogurt or crème fraiche. Rutabagas have a more mild flavor and can be used in most dishes like one would use a potato. Think of adding them to soups, chowders or stews, roasting them or adding them to a root vegetable gratin, or even using them mashed to top shepard’s pie.
This Month’s Recipe
In this month’s recipe, rutabaga is roasted and tossed in a tangy-sweet cider vinegar and maple reduction and topped with aromatic freshly chopped sage. It’s a delicious side dish to accompany any meat or poultry, but could also be added to a kale or spinach salad with a hardboiled egg or crumbled bacon to make a complete and delicious meal.
Maple-Sage Roasted Rutabaga
- 3lbrutabaga, diced into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1/4cupcider vinegar (plain vinegar is OK, too)
- 1/4cupmaple syrup
- 1/2cupfresh sage leaves
- 1/2cupsliced shallot
- 1/4cupand 1 teaspoon oil, preferably olive oil
- 1pinchSalt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, toss rutabaga, 1/4 cup oil, and salt and pepper. When finished, place in a 9x9 inch baking dish.
- In a small pot, combine maple syrup and cider vinegar. Place on high heat and let the syrup caramelize in the boiling vinegar. Cook until reduced by half, then drizzle over the rutabaga.
- Toss the sage leaves with 1 teaspoon oil, and sprinkle over the rutabaga.
- Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-35 minutes.
For more on beets and rutabaga including recipes and interesting factoids, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month’s website: http://www.vermontharvestofthemonth.org/