The Many Uses of Rutabaga
Today is the 460th birthday of the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin. Gaspard spent his life classifying plants, and he ordered plants in a way that's familiar to us today - using binomial names, one name for the genus, and one name for the species.
Gaspard was also the first to document a vegetable he named the napobrassica, the vegetable we know today as the rutabaga. Gaspard’s name for the rutabaga was prophetic because DNA testing has proven that the rutabaga is the result of a turnip crossing with a cabbage.
Gaspard mentioned in his work that the rutabaga was grown in the northern fields of Bohemia, where the people simply called it “root.” Can you survive on rutabaga’s or Swedish turnips, as they are sometimes called? Yes. Yes, you can. Rutabagas can grow to be as big or bigger than a bowling ball.
Almost a year ago, Helen Rosner wrote an article called, “What Rutabaga Does Better Than Anything Else.” It turns out; the rutagaba is perfect for making neutral-tasting, nicely-textured vegetable noodles. Use turnips and the noodles are too spicy. Use zucchini, and the noodles are meh. Use carrots, the noodles are too sweet. But, rutabaga noodles are just right.
Rosner’s favorite restaurant in Brooklyn makes rutabaga noodles using a Japanese slicer resulting in perfect paper ribbons of rutabaga. If you look at the finished dish, you’d never know they weren’t real pasta.
Gaspard wrote, “Pinax Theatri Botanici” (“An Illustrated Exposition of Plants”). In his book, he described thousands of plants, and he classified them using binomial nomenclature. Naturally, his work is considered a forerunner to that of Carl Linnaeus.