Know your Swedes

  • The swede (from Swedish turnip), rutabaga (in Sweden and USA) or yellow turnip (Brassica napobrassica, or Brassica napus var. napobrassica, or Brassica napus subsp. rapifera) is a hybrid root vegetable that was first introduced in the 17th century. 

Know your Swedes - Botany

  • Brassica napobrassica. A biennial crucifer of the order Capparales probably resulting from the natural crossing of cabbage and turnip and characterized by a large, edible, yellowish fleshy root.
  • There are three types of swede and they are known as green tops, bronze tops and purple tops
  • Purple tops produce the largest crops and are the most commonly available.

Know your Swedes - Origins

  • The first known printed reference to the swede comes from the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin in 1620, where he notes that it was growing wild in Sweden. 
  • It is often considered to have originated from Scandinavia or Russia. 
  • It is said to have been widely introduced to England around the end of the 18th century, but it was recorded as being present in the royal gardens in England as early as 1669 and was described in France in 1700. 
  • It was asserted by Sir John Sinclair in his Husbandry of Scotland to have been introduced to Scotland around 1781-1782. 
  • An article on the topic in The Gardeners' Chronicle suggests that the swede was then introduced more widely to England in 1790. 
  • Introduction to North America came in the early 19th century with reports of planted swede crops in Illinois as early as 1817.

Know your Swedes - Uses

  • The roots are prepared for food in a variety of ways, and its leaves can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable. See How to cook Swedes