Mike Rosmann: Rutabaga experiment not over till it’s overMore readers responded to “Gardener’s great rutabaga experiment falls flat” than any of my other columns thus far. The article was published earlier this fall. For the first time, I grew rutabagas this year and harvested a good bunch. Every way I cooked them, they smelled up the entire house and tasted strong.
By: By Mike Rosmann, INFORUM
More readers responded to “Gardener’s great rutabaga experiment falls flat” than any of my other columns thus far. The article was published earlier this fall.
For the first time, I grew rutabagas this year and harvested a good bunch. Every way I cooked them, they smelled up the entire house and tasted strong.
Many people who wrote were replying to my plea, “Readers, please send me better ways I can use rutabagas without having to apologize.” I have accumulated enough recipes for a cookbook.
Readers like Shirley of Illinois offered useful advice and caution. “Years ago I planted rutabagas in our garden and had a fantastic crop. I needed to find as many ways to use them as possible.
“WGN’s noon farm show was advertising a free cookbook with a recipe for rutabaga cake. Beet cake, zucchini cake, sweet potato cake, among other vegetable cakes, are delicious – so why not rutabaga? I ordered the cookbook and could hardly wait for it to arrive.
“I scrubbed a big root, peeled it and finely grated the called-for-amount. As the cake baked, the peculiar sewer gas smell coming from the oven was not a good sign.
“After the cake cooled and I had frosted it, my family tackled their supper dessert. There are no words to describe the scene at our country table. The spitting, sputtering and hurried gulps of water were a sight to witness.
“The cake went directly to our compost pile where critters on our farm make nightly raids. The cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, coons, possums, birds … not one took more than a bite. The wonderful rutabaga cake decomposed into what is now only a memory.”
Joel and Tonna of Iowa had more heartening advice. “Don’t say ‘goodbye’ to rutabagas! This year was not a good year for them; dry weather concentrates the flavor so that is likely why you found them bitter.
“Planting later is better. As they say, when you can sit with a bare butt on the ground comfortably, it’s time to plant them.”
I have heard of keeping one’s nose to the grindstone but I have never heard of using one’s bare butt to check the soil temperature.
It would be just my luck that somebody would drive by my garden as I was conducting the “test.” I would have a lot of explaining to do. Probably nobody would believe me.
Joel and Tonna offered additional constructive advice. “Some years we have so many rutabagas that we have to leave them in the ground and cover them with big round bales to keep the ground from freezing and dig them as needed.
“We like them raw as a snack. Shredded, they make great hash browns. And you can make a great slaw similar to cabbage slaw.
“We eat them for breakfast: sauté shredded rutabagas with onions and a bit of hot pepper, break an egg on top of them and stir, cover and cook until done (3-5 minutes or so) over medium heat.”
Mary from Iowa said her mother would cook rutabagas with ham or bacon and a little onion for flavor. She added, “We grew some in the field this year for a fall cover crop for the cows; they say they are good to eat!”
I am fairly sure Mary meant cows find rutabagas good to eat. Or maybe Mary meant people say eating rutabagas won’t kill you. Either way, it wasn’t the convincing evidence I was looking for.
Pat in Indiana said rutabagas are an acquired taste. His mother peels them, slices and cooks them until tender, drains and mashes them, then adds brown sugar, butter and salt.
Pat added, “On Thanksgiving Day my mother would make us eat them, but now I enjoy them as well. If you have any questions, give ‘Ma’ a call.” He added her phone number, but I am not publishing it because I wouldn’t want Pat’s 84-year- old mother inundated with phone calls.
This Thanksgiving I tried Pat’s mother’s recipe. Marilyn and my two children tasted them when they came home for the holiday, but none of the other guests.
Marilyn proclaimed, “We’re not serving them!” Shelby and Jon both said, “I would eat them again.” However, Shelby wouldn’t let her 1-year-old daughter try them, even though Alexandra eats practically everything.
So, the great rutabaga experiment isn’t over yet. If little Alex likes rutabagas when her mother allows her to try them, I will grow them again.
Thanks to all who wrote me. Special thanks to all who contributed to this article. I will now retrieve the recently arrived seed catalog from the trash can – the one with a picture of a rutabaga on the front cover.
But we are not having rutabagas for Christmas dinner. Have a blessed Christmas and holiday season.
Rosmann and his wife, Marilyn, live on their Harlan, Iowa farm. Contact him through the website, www.agbehavioralhealth.com.