The Shed

The Shed
The Shed

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

FARM GIRL'S CORNER - Gentlemen! Start your rutabagas!

Farm Girl here; welcome to Farm Girl's Corner. Its really quiet around the Shed today. Jack went back to London for a visit, although we aren't sure which century caught his attention. Leatherface has locked himself in the kitchen in the main house, the better to make his (shudder) unspeakable sausages. Delacroix seems to be tangled up in someone else's story line way the hell and gone up some river in Paraguay or possibly Brazil and no one has seen Aggy in days. Not that anyone has been looking.

Uncle Mac, rifle, butterfly net, port-a-ledge and dried beanie-weenie packets in tow is on a time safari to the mid-Carboniferous which is fine as long as he only brings back trophies and nothing with a pulse. I mean, Dire worked out ok and we're glad to have him here, he looks enough like a gray wolf hybrid to pass for one and he keeps the raccoons and Jehovah's Witnesses away but who can forget the Opies?

Opabinia regalus, cute little critters from a half billion years ago, kind of like a five eyed cross between a shrimp and a vacuum cleaner with snapping jaws on the end of the hose. None of the fossils found thus far have ever been longer than five inches so what the hey! Lets just toss 'em in the fish tank with the guppies, shall we?

Turned out the paleontologists only have fossils of the babies. Two weeks later and about a thousand guppies in debt we had to move the now cat sized Opies to the koi pond with predictable results for the koi.

Tossing them in the reservoir in the dead of night was not an inspired solution; it seems they get at least as big as mini-vans.

One thing governments are good at is covering things up and so the cordoning off and eventual draining of the reservoir was blamed on some vague not-to-be-discussed terrorist activity and since no one expects that eccentric old gardeners are ever up to anything shady, we skated on that one.

Sure was lively around here for a while, though!        

But I'm here to tell you about rutabagas - Brassica napus - and why its time to consider starting them.

Oh I know what you are thinking, its early June and rutabagas are a fall crop. But think about what growing zone you are in! What is the first frost date? Most varieties of rutabaga need a minimum of 90 and sometimes as much as 115 days to fully develop. this means that if you are going to direct seed them to the garden as most folks do you need to count back that number of days from the first frost to reveal a viable planting date. And of course you don't want to take chances on an early frost. Here at the shed where we plant a long developing variety we have to think about doing our seeding sometime in the next week. (June 17 - 24)

But do you really want rutabagas, you might be asking yourself if you have never grown them. Sure you do!

Rutabagas are often called yellow turnips but this is a bit of a slur, they are nothing like the common white turnip. Bigger, longer keeping, tastier, capable of being used in many many recipes you want rutabagas in your garden. You can eat the greens as well. But you better get your ass in gear if you expect to enjoy any! Lets take a quick look at the big yeller feller.

The "Look what I got!", goofy grin. 
Rutabagas are much larger than common white turnips. Some, like this one, are merely biggish.

Just as goofy, but a bigger 'baga!
 While some will feed a family of six!

You can make all sorts of tasty things with rutabagas, like this simple sliced 'baga, butter and pepper side.

At the shed we like to mash 'em up with equal quantities of potatoes and slather them with butter and pepper, a minor but tasty variation on the theme shown above. 

Note the color of the 'baga slice which can vary from pale through bright yellow to intense orange. 

Rutabagas are packed with all kinds of vitamins, minerals and other wonderful and healthful goodies!

Rutabagas keep over winter in a cool, humid environment, very important the way the world is trending.

Finally, 'bagas taste really good and can be used in many creative ways.

Rutabaga pie can be a main dish potpie with potatoes and other veggies, beef and beef by products and anything else that would mix in well.

But it can also be a delicious custard desert pie as well!

Rutabagas can be prepared as a hearty, filling and nutritious cold weather soup. There are so many ways to utilize this versatile veggie!

Sold? Ready to plant? Well cheer up, rutabagas are an easy to grow, undemanding crop as long as you start them in time.

First you need a spot to put them. Have you used all of your garden space for the spring planting? Then rutabagas will be a successor crop, following an early crop that has already been harvested. This can be kale, spinach, leaf lettuce or radishes. Peas are a particularly fine precursor, their nitrogen fixing ways are beneficial to the second crop.

Avoid planting where other Brassicas were previously planted, plants like cabbages, kohlrabi, white turnips or broccoli use the same nutrients as rutabagas and their growth will not be optimal as a result.

Turn the soil, rake out any weeds or former crop remnants and work in compost of course. Add just a little bit of a potassium rich soil amendment like hardwood ashes or dried kelp or kelp meal. If your compost is made with hardwood ashes added in this step will not be necessary.

Plant the seeds so that no plant will be closer than one foot from any other, about one half inch deep. allow 10 - 14 days for germination. Mulch the plants when growth is well established, weed if necessary and keep well watered.

Rutabaga's have few insect enemies but woodchucks, deer and bunnies will nibble the leaves.

Rutabagas will tolerate a light frost but if long term storage is the goal they should be picked before frost touches them. They should be stored in a cool but humid environment, under which conditions they will last all winter long.

Waxing probably does more harm than good, you can do your own controlled experiment and see which group comes through best. 

That is our rutabaga story and we're stickin' to it. As always, thanks for visiting Farm Girl's Corner!

"Farm Girl" photo courtesy of April May Maple, who retains all rights.

Model: April May Maple


Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

This is a very cool post, informative in all things rutabaga, and our beautiful April May Maple is a great model Farm Girl! Rutabagas, a.k.a. yellow or orange turnips are excellent! Great post, Mac!

Glory Lennon said...

Well, I'm convince...only wish I had 115 days left in my growing season. We sometimes get frost in August! UGH!

Dan Shaw said...

rutabagas and turnips I believe are something I've never have eaten. I don't think they even carry them in the grocery store around here? If they do it must be in the speciality section. I have no clue what they even taste like?

Mac Pike said...

Hmmm - how to describe a taste? best I can do is to recommend the rutabaga as pleasant. White turnips taste a bit like old sneaker.