National rutabaga month was September and I did not celebrate. I did not even know until today that there was a national rutabaga month.
I also did not know that Forest Grove, Oregon has been the rutabaga capital of the world since 1951. The Advanced Rutabaga Studies Institute claimed both of these things and you can read all about them on their website: http://members.tripod.com/~rutabags/.
The rutabaga is the lovechild of a cabbage and a turnip. Like its mother the turnip, it is a root vegetable with edible greens. Like its father the cabbage it is big and strong. As with many children of unclear surname, the rutabaga has been called many things over the years. Oddly enough, rutabagas are called "swedes" in English-speaking countries except the United States, but never called that in Sweden. Sometimes the rutabaga is called a "turnip" but usually by Canadians who have never seen them. If you call a rutabaga a turnip, you need to qualify that. If a rutabaga is a turnip it is a yellow turnip and never a white turnip. The reason for that is obvious because rutabagas are yellowish-brown and purple while turnips are white and purple. Some people in England solve the problem by calling both turnips and rutabagas "snadgies." What do you expect from people who call beets "mangelwurzels"?
People who are fondly familiar with the rutabaga may call it "neep" and the rutabaga does not mind at all. You can learn all sorts of wonderful things about rutabagas from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutabaga).
The rutabaga was born sometime in the 1600's when some cabbages and turnips were bundled together and put on a sledge by some folks who were traveling across Siberia. Both of these vegetables are able to withstand a lot of cold weather and harsh conditions, but even they need some comfort. When the people of the sledges finally stopped for a relaxing sauna bath in Finland, the cabbages and turnips had their chance to have their own private fun. The next spring, little baby leaves were sprouting all over Finland and by late summer, the baby roots had grown big and strong. The sled dogs just sniffed at them.
The hungry sledge people, being thrifty and inventive (after you've done the obvious recreation umpteen times during a very long, dark winter, you turn to inventing things). The Finns found that the bastard vegetables could be consumed with pleasure, especially with butter or cream and added to potatoes and carrots or parsnips. News of the tasty vegetable wandered westward to the rest of Scandinavia, then over to the British Isles, and then the rest of Europe. Some of the Finns went to the Upper Penninsula of Michigan to mine for copper and perfected the pasty, a variation of the pot pie, pierogi, and Cornish pie, that included their beloved rutabaga. Rutabagas made it to America. The Scots found that rutabagas are great next to haggis as they can distract the eater from thinking about the source of haggis. The Scots also discovered "clapshot" and "tatties and neeps," which both sound rather naughty. (What do you expect from people whose menfolk wear nothing under their kilts?) The Scots also found that rutabagas were good animal feed. Sheep ate rutabagas. Then the sheep could be made into mutton stew. People and border collies both like mutton stew, but border collies do not like rutabaga and will spit it out if they find it in their dog dishes.
The blue-blooded turnip has been around for thousands of years, having graced the tables of ancient Greeks and noble Romans. The turnip was used as a lantern, flavoring, and food. Some folks in Salzburg decided that the turnip was such a worthy item that they embossed its picture on their shields and arms as a warning that, if attacked the Salzburgians would lob catapults full of steamed turnips on the nasty enemy and force them to eat vegetables against their will. The enemy would soon realize that they should befriend rather than attack such people who knew how to cook turnips to buttery perfection. So, when the rest of Europe was introduced to the lovechild of turnips and cabbage (which has plenty of virtue itself), the people readily took a liking to the sturdy wholesome youth. During times of famine, rutabagas came to the rescue and saved many a life. You can read more about turnips in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turnip).
History and folklore about turnips and rutabagas can be found on the website Plant Answers (http://plantanswers.tamu.edu/publications/vegetabletravelers/turnip.html). From there you can learn that Henry VIII loved all parts of turnips. Apparently he believed that they would bring him a son. Perhaps Anne Boleyne suggested that she could give him a household of lusty sons if Henry would eat his vegetables lustily. Anne was an odd duck. By the time Anne was done a way with, Henry actually enjoyed turnips and grew them in his royal gardens. The article did not say it, but I would guess that Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake" when the peasants were starving because she wanted to keep the sweet little roasted turnips all to herself.
The future of rutabagas is at hand. In these times of financial challenge, we need sturdy, nutritious, tasty, and inexpensive vegetables to get us through the metaphoric winter. Not only that, but they can be substituted for building supplies such as bricks to build homes or other structures, such as couches and chairs. They could be burned for fuel. They could be used again as lanterns. They are biodegradable. They can be regrown. Rutabagas can get us through the winter.
Three cheers for rutabagas.