Michigan Fresh: Using, Storing, and Preserving Rutabagas (HNI52)

January 23, 2015

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Recommended varieties 

American Purple Top, Thomson Laurentian and Joan

Interesting Facts

  • Rutabaga belongs to the Cruciferae or mustard family and the genus Brassica, classified as Brassica napobrassica.
  • Developed during the Middle Ages, rutabagas are thought to be a cross between the turnip and the cabbage.
  • The rutabaga is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, and a good source for fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and manganese.
  • Similar to the turnip but sweeter, rutabagas are inexpensive and low in calories.

Tips for buying, preparing and harvesting

  • Look for smooth, firm vegetables with a round shape. Avoid rutabagas with punctures, deep cuts, cracks or signs of decay. They usually are trimmed of taproots and tops before they are sold to the public.
  • Use rutabagas in soups or stew, or bake, boil or steam and slice or mash as a side dish. Lightly stir-fry or eat raw in salads. Rutabaga is traditional in Michigan pasties, along with potatoes, carrots and beef.
  • Harvest when they reach the size of a softball. You may harvest rutabagas as they reach edible size and throughout the season since they will keep in the ground. 

Storage and food safety

  • Wash hands before and after handling fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Rutabagas will keep for months in a cool storage place. They store well in plastic bags in a refrigerator or cold cellar.
  • Keep rutabagas away from raw meat and meat juices to prevent cross contamination.
  • Before peeling, wash rutabagas using cool or slightly warm water and a vegetable brush.

How to Preserve

Preparation: Select young, medium-sized rutabagas. Cut off tops, wash using cool water and a vegetable brush, and peel.


Rutabagas are best frozen. Canned rutabagas usually discolor and develop a strong flavor.


Freeze by cutting into cubes and water blanch for 3 minutes. Cool, drain and pack into freezer containers or freezer bags, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Label and place in a 0 °F freezer.


Baked rutabagas

Place 1 to 3 pounds quartered and peeled rutabagas in a shallow baking dish. Cover and bake in a 350 °F oven until tender, usually 40 to 50 minutes. Mix with carrots and parsnips for a great fall bake.


Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. (2006). Home grown facts: Growing rutabagas. Oriskany, NY: Author.

Michigan State University Extension. (2006). Get fresh too! (CYFC065)(Rev. ed.). East Lansing, MI: Author.

Schroepfer, M., & Lueders, J. (2005, September). Parsnips, rutabagas, turnips – Oh my! Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Extension.

Smith, P., & Shaughnessy, D. (2003). Turnips and rutabagas (HGIC 1324) (Rev. ed.). Clemson, SC: Clemson University.

University of the District of Columbia, Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health. (n.d.). Rutabaga,1, 12. Washington, DC: Author.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. (2006). So easy to preserve (5th ed.). Athens, GA: Author. Retrieved from

More information

Prepared by: Katherine E. Hale MSU Extension educator

Related Topic Areas

Vegetables, Michigan Fresh


Katherine Hale

Katherine Hale

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