Jan 6, 2009

Dr. Rutabega, I presume?

On Facebook I posted that i was researching rutabegas and endives, sparking a raging controversy over their plural forms (rutabegum, rutabega, endivum...). While that's not one of the more onerous pieces of research we are currently doing in planning our garden, it's a good launching point for showing the mountain we do have to overcome (though not necessarily all this year, Sarah keeps gently reminding me.)

For each and every vegetable we can imagine, we need to think and learn how to:
  • what is it? Honestly, i'm still not quite sure what rutabega is, how to spell it (some write "rutabaga"), or what it's proper name is (see the raging controversy at the end of this article)
  • do we want it? Does it taste good, fit into our mealplans, nourish out bodies, will our kids eat it... Is it high enough on the priority list to make the list of 20 or whatever number of things we end up agreeing to plant?
  • do others want it? Should we grow extra, and where would we be able to sell it, and what would the profit margin be? Do i want this to be my mark on society, to be known as Rutabega Rick?
  • where to find organic, non-GMO, heirloom seeds
  • which variety to pick - there are about 7,500 varieties of tomatoes for various growing conditions and uses. Hopefully not that many types of rutabega
  • how to prepare the beds - fertilizer, size, ideal soil type, sun exposure, does it follow the harvest of early potatoes or some other crop that prepares the soil
  • timing - when to plant, care and harvest, frost danger, do we transplant from a greenhouse or plant directly in the ground
  • crossplanting - does it benefit (or suffer) from being beside some other plant
  • planting - when, how deep, how much water to add, which way does the seed face
  • care - when and how often to weed, fertilize, water; how to know if it's healthy or needs help; and my biggest fear right now is what does it look like as it grows, so i don't weed the wrong things
  • harvest - when, how to know when it's ready, how to pull it out without damage
  • processing - preserving (freeze, cold storage, canning, sourkraut, pickling, jams...)
  • cooking - how many ways can we cook a rutabega
  • marketing - Farmers Market (do i want to regularly have a Rutabega Rick stand?), sell at neighbour's farm market stand, have regular customers, sell directly to restaurants...
And now for the interesting part - what to call it. Who (except the person who made the following Wikopedia entry) knew that one little root vegetable could inspire so many names:
"Swede" is the preferred term used in much of England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and India, while "rutabaga" (from dialectal Swedish rotabagge, literally, "root ram") is the common American English term for the plant. In the U.S., the plant is also known as "Swedish turnip," "yellow turnip", or "wax turnip", (as it is sometimes sold with a waxy coating to preserve freshness) while in Ireland and Canada, where turnips are relatively unknown, it is referred to as a turnip. In Scots, it is either "tumshie" or "neep", and the turnip (Brassica rapa var. rapa) instead is called a "white turnip". Scots will refer to both types by the generic term "neep" (from Old English næp, Latin napus). Some will also refer to both types as just "turnip" (the word is also derived from næp). In North-East England, turnips and swedes are colloquially called "snaggers". They should not be confused with the large beet known as a mangelwurzel. Its common name in Sweden is kålrot (literally "cabbage root").

1 comment:

  1. for some reason swedes and neeps and tatties always have tasted better on the other side of the pond... I love them.
    one thing you need to add to your list of queries is who will take over all the chores when you go camping for the weekend, or like me go away for 3 weeks peak planting time... I have not worked that one out yet...may have t o take a year off and focus on cover crops and soil health….
    what are you favorite seed catalogs?