Another Root Cellar Romp: Parsnips and Rutabagas

Swedes are larger and denser than turnips. No, it's not an ethnic joke--swedes are what they call rutabagas in England. The rutabaga, or Swedish turnip, is often sold with a wax coating to protect the skin from discoloration. Rutabaga comes from the Swedish word rotabagge. Swedes are best roasted or boiled. In Finland and Sweden they are frequently mashed up with turnips and carrots in a dish called rotmos or "root mash."

"Neeps and tatties," as rutabagas and potatoes are known in Scotland, are boiled and mashed separately as the traditional accompaniment to haggis. Rutabagas were introduced to Scotland in the late 1700s by Patrick Miller, the Chairman of the Carron Iron Company. King Gustav III of Sweden gave Miller a gold snuff-box containing rutabaga seeds as a gift. The snuff-box is exhibited in the British Museum in London, the neeps are all over Scotland.

Parsnips taste more carroty than carrots. They also have more of the same nutrients as carrots. In Roman times, the two were interchangeable. The parsnip got larger and improved in quality as it traveled north, thriving in cold regions with short growing seasons. Now the parsnip is frequently found on the British table, particularly for the Sunday roast. Parsnips and rutabagas are also excellent in soups. You can cook them together and mash them with butter like carrots and turnips--or you can combine them with other root vegetables in a Swedish rotmos.

Swedish Rotmos (Root Mash)

While rutabagas are a must for a proper Swedish rotmos, you can vary the other vegetables to suit your tastes or the surplus in your pantry. Carrots, turnips, potatoes, celeriac, or even sweet potatoes can be used. Root mash is often topped with crumbled bacon, caramelized onions or gravy and served as a side dish.

1 rutabaga 3 parsnips 1 russet potato 3 tablespoons butter 1 cup milk Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and chop the root vegetables into roughly one-inch cubes. Boil the rutabaga and parsnip chunks for ten minutes, then add the potato chunks. Cook another fifteen minutes or until all of the vegetables are extremely tender. Add the butter and mash with a potato masher adding milk to form a thick puree. Serve hot. Makes 8 cups

-Robb Walsh

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