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Nowadays, the root vegetable with the mild, bitter-sweet taste is highly regarded, even by gourmet chefs. But at one time the swede, also known as the rutabaga or turnip, was a staple food for impoverished Germans.

During the Steckrübenwinter (Swede Winter) of 1916/1917, the German population had to survive almost exclusively on this root vegetable, as food was very scarce and the potato harvest had failed. Traditionally, the versatile root is cooked in a hearty stew with potatoes, carrots and smoked or cured meat. It is also delicious as a vegetable side dish though, or even eaten raw, grated into a salad along with chunks of apple, raisins, nuts, raspberry vinegar and walnut oil.

Cook the swede in salted water and then mash it with a little butter and nutmeg to create a tasty puree. Or for a lovely soup, cut the peeled swede into strips, puree them together with cream and stock, and season with a little curry powder. When shopping for swede, bear in mind freshness and quality, favouring smaller vegetables over larger ones.

Once cut open, the flesh of the swede should not be woody, nor should it contain any worm holes. A swede will stay fresh for a few days if kept in the crisper.

Source:, Heike Kreutz

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