Rutabaga Garden Experiment Was A Success

Like most of you, I grow a garden each year. More accurately stated, a number of gardens, ranging from various size raised garden beds to conventional gardening on the ground. Among the implementation, I always add a garden experiment, or two, or three… One of them this year was growing some rutabagas.

(Lets hear stories of your own garden experiments this year – in the comments below!)

I chose the ‘American Purple Top’ Rutabaga variety. Seemed quite popular and well reviewed. Got them from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (no affiliation).

I added three additional raised garden beds this year, 4×8 16″tall.

[ Read: Fill Bottom Of Deep Raised Garden Bed With Organic Materials ]

So I decided to use half of one raised bed (4’x4′) to try growing some rutabaga. I’ve never tried before. I wanted to discover the potential yield. Also, as a related experiment, to store some of those rutabagas (long term) in my relatively cool shop building. Will they last all winter if I store them properly? We’ll see… I have had good success that way with my potatoes.

[ Read: How to Preserve /Store Potatoes Long Term ]

Rutabaga is essentially a turnip. Some people don’t like their flavor. It is unique. Some say it’s a bit bitter. However Mrs. J and I thought it was okay, especially when you add them to a beef roast crockpot simmering all day in a bath of beef bone broth (and onion). Yum… Or slice into smaller chunks – wrap in aluminum foil with some added butter – and roast on the grill while you’re cooking the main course.

(Let us know your rutabaga recipes in the comments below)

50 Pounds of Rutabaga From 4×4 Garden

They grew quite well. Not a problem at all. Did you know that rutabaga leaves get quite large? Kinda like elephant ears!

Here’s a photo of the rutabaga leaves (lower right), taken mid-August. You can see a few beet leaves coming up in front of them (they did well too).

Rutabaga plants have large leaves

I planted the seeds on June 14. Harvested October 1. I’m guessing that’s about 115 days or thereabouts. We have had several frosts during the last two weeks of September, but the rutabaga just laughed at it. Apparently they embrace the cold – at the end. I knew that a hard freeze was coming (this morning at 24 degrees), so decided to harvest them a few days ago.

Look at the size of this one. It weighed in just over 7 pounds:

American Purple Top Rutabaga sticking up out of the ground

Here’s a picture of my 50 pound rutabaga yield:

rutabaga harvest
7 pound American Purple Top Rutabaga

The Rutabaga contains about 10 calories per ounce, or 160 calories per pound. They are not as calorie dense as the potato which is about 25 calories per ounce, or 400 calories per pound.

So given the ‘preparedness’ context of this site, the potato is better grown in that regard (calories). However, in comparison, the rutabaga has triple the protein as a potato (1.7 versus 0.6 grams/oz)!

If you’re watching your carbohydrate (carb) intake, the rutabaga beats the potato by a wide margin (2.5 versus 6 grams/oz).

Lastly, the rutabaga was ridiculously easy to grow (at least in my climate zone here in northern NH). Now I’m ready to store some of them away in a cardboard box (in a dark and cool environment) to see how long they last.

What were your garden experiments this year?

18 Comments

  1. Nice, i bet you can eat the greens, but im sure your chickens would also like em.
    Never tried a rutabaga,
    What did you use for building your beds sides again?

  2. Love rutabaga! I find turnips watery and so don’t eat them. But like rutabaga sliced into thick wedges and grilled or oiled, sliced, and roasted.

  3. One of my favorites…mashed rutabagas. Peel, cut it up into small cubes, boil in salted water, add butter and mash like potatoes, keep adding butter until creamy texture.

    Some say it’s an acquired taste…wasn’t for me…I loved it the first time Momma made ’em.

    1. Right on! I’m the only one that insists to this day to having them cooked this way for every holiday dinner (and some random ones). I’m the only one that likes them, so I make sure to get them early enough and cook them myself, with extra made for left overs :-)

  4. I grow rutabega every year. It grows great, high yield, no pest to speak of and keeps over a full year.
    I keep them in my roothouse. Temp does go down to 36F but the moisture in roothouse is 90%.
    I found that if you trim the root and cut the top off they seem to keep better as they always try to sprout
    if the root and top is intact. Keep some with the tops and roots attached if you want to grow them out the
    following year for seed. You need at least 15 stored roots for viable(genetically strong) seed. Rutabega is a
    biannual. They set seed very easily the next year and you will have enough seed for your lifetime.
    I like carrots and rutabega steamed together and mashed. Stew is the better with rutabega in it!
    I’m in zone2b/3a (northern Canada)I have a very short season but they grow great even in bad years.
    My experiments this year were Painted mountain corn(flint corn for grinding) and Orchard baby for sweet
    corn. Both were a success. I have two spots I grow in that are 3miles apart so the corn doesn’t cross.

  5. I love rutabagas..a nice low carb alternative to potatoes. They are typically sweeter than turnips. I’ve got some in my spare fridge in plastic bags from a year ago that are still fine. I got mine in a bit late this year (WV) so I really hope I get some before winter shuts me down.

  6. I have grown rutabagas off and on for several years. We love them boiled then mashed like potatoes with plenty of butter. Gave some to neighbor last year and she mixed with mashed potatoes to lessen the strong taste. Says they were great. I also cut into small pieces and add to veggie soups or stews. Great added flavor. I’ve grown them as big as soft balls or bigger. Other crops tried! For last three years have grown potatoes right on top of the ground. In fall spread a bale of mulch hay in a row. Allow the snow and rain to tamp the hay down. In the spring place the seed potatoes underneath the hay. As shoots appear add some more hay on top. In the fall, just push the hay aside, and bingo, a fine crop of dig free potatoes.

    1. Willy Pete, In which area of the country are you trying this method? This year, in the south, everyone was complaining about their potato crops. We even planted in partial sun, which was good since we had near record or a day or so of record heat.
      I grew up eating rutabagas. I am guessing they were cheap during the depression, so the grandmothers in the neighborhood cooked them often. Mashed with a little milk, salt, pepper and lots of butter.
      I usually keep at least a dozen pounds of butter in the freezer, since I use it in Italian bread and almost every vegetable that lands on the table.
      I am tempted to try rutabagas right now, since I can use a row cover in Jan./Feb.

  7. If rutabagas are what we call swede then I love them boiled and mashed with butter and mashed potato’s >

  8. As a child my mom made us eat them, have not had one in years. I’ll go with sweet taters or butternut squash instead. Great looking garden Mr. Ken.

  9. Great job!

    I tried to grow turnips this year. I don’t know if I harvested them too late, but they were so bitter they were inedible.

    I’ll try again next year!

    1. Amareur Prepper,

      There are many varieties of turnips. Some so bitter a mule wouldn’t eat them. : ) Ask around and you may find a variety you do like. I like White Egg and Tokyo Cross myself. The Laurentian (SP) variety of rutabagas is my favorite. Keep trying and it will pay off.

  10. In one of my 4×8 beds this year I grew 2 1/2 ft each of green bush beans, carrots, and beets. They have all done very well. I just pickled 12 pints of pickled beets of all colors- real pretty. I have harvested an untold amount of green beans and they are still coming along with peas on a fence on either side of the 4×8 bed, that are also still growing somewhat. I have used carrots as needed, but will be harvesting them to can soon. It was a good mix and will probably do it again next year.

  11. I have new 4×8 raised beds this year, and I’m pretty pleased with my harvest of green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, and zucchini. I tried a fall garden for the first time too, and that 4×8 bed has taken off faster than my summer garden did. Everything looks so healthy! I have beets, lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes, and turnips (which I’ve never grown before). It helps that we’re in October and still having sunny days in the seventies and eighties. That’s highly unusual, so I consider it an added blessing.

    I also took a sucker branch from a tomato plant, grew roots on it in a jar of water, and planted it in a pot of dirt to try to grow inside. I’m not sure we’ll have enough sun, even in a south facing window, but I thought I’d try it.

    Each year gardening is an experiment in some way. Taking care of the raised garden beds is much easier, but more effort initially to set up. It’s limiting if I want to raise more crops, but don’t have enough beds. But, I like having these beds right outside my back door. It’s easy to check on them and protect them!

  12. I live in the northeast, upper New England. Be advised Potatoes are a sizeable and significant crop for northern Maine and into the Maritime Provinces in Canada. So the cold does not really affect them.

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