.. means cool climate vegetables like collards, turnips and a few other cooler weather leafy greens enjoy a growing season of five or six months. We grow turnips for the vegetation, not the root that most folks think of when scanning across the vegetable bins at the market. Sure, we eat them too, but it ain’t our favorite part of the plant. Most root crops are imported to our area. Now, we do grow new potatoes, sweet taters, horseradish, garlic, onions, even peanuts and soybeans (yes, it’s a storehouse of energy in a shell) and we can in good conditions grow the likes of carrots, radishes, beets, parsnip, salsify and Irish taters too.
The best time to cook any vegetable is during it’s peek season and with the root crops, that means early in the season when the roots are still young and sweet.Roasting is a great way to bring about the natural sweetness of root crops. I guess my favorite is rutabagas and the roasted version I do sometimes is about as good as I know, unless you prefer the boiled, mashed method. Most folks tend to cover the vegetables completely with water or stock and that is fine, if that is how you like it. We tend to treat ’em a little different by a quick sear or stir-fry in a flavorful fat coating and then allow the rutabagas to steam in their own natural moisture content with maybe just a little help of chicken stock. Of course, we throw in a little southern seasoning just so you’ll want a second helping.
Tender, Southern Seasoned Rutabagas
this is a good way to cook all root crops turnips, parsnips, carrots – just remove from heat when tender
4 to 6 pounds rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 to 4 tablespoons bacon grease (or 4 tablespoons margarine)
2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil if using margarine but hey, it ain’t gonna be southern)
1 jalapeño or hot pepper, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste (lots of pepper)
1/2 cup chicken stock
In a large stockpot over medium high heat, add the bacon grease and butter. When hot, add the rutabagas and toss to coat evenly. Cook, continuously tossing for about 5 minutes to sear the rutabagas. Add remaining ingredients, toss again to distribute the seasonings and cover with lid. When boiling action begins, reduce heat to medium low. Cook tossing rutabagas a couple of times for 1 1/2 hours or until tender.
Rutabagas are considered ready (tender) around these parts when the cubes begin to break down and turn to mush. Of course, you can remove the pot from the heat at any time to your liking…