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Turnip or Rutabaga?

Fine Cooking Issue 67
Photo: Scott Phillips
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Because they’re sometimes marketed as yellow turnips or wax turnips, rutabagas (right) are frequently confused with turnips (left). Both of these root vegetables are members of the Brassica family, which includes cabbages, but the rutabaga is probably a hybrid of a cabbage and a  turnip.

Turnips are usually white-fleshed with white or white and purple skin. Rutabagas usually have yellow flesh and a purple- tinged yellow skin, and they’re bigger than turnips. (There are also yellow- fleshed turnips and white-fleshed rutabagas, but you won’t generally find them in supermarkets.) Both vegetables have a slightly sweet but snappy flavor reminiscent of cabbage. Rutabagas are sweeter than turnips.

When purchasing either, choose those that are firm and feel heavy for their size. Turnips tend to get woody as they grow, so look for ones that are less than 4 inches in diameter. If the greens are still attached, remove them before storing the roots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Store the turnip greens separately if you plan to eat them.

Prep tips

Before peeling a turnip or rutabaga, trim off the top and bottom; this gives you a flat surface on which to stand the vegeetable and will eliminate wobbling. Turnip skin is usually tender enough to pare with a vegetable peeler. Rutabagas are often sold coated in food-grade wax and usually require paring with a knife.


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