How to Grow Swedes

Swedes are one of those vegetables that never seem to get into ready-prepared, convenience dishes and yet are still popular with cooks who prepare their own food. They belong, perhaps, to what one might call the category of “wholesome food” (such as stews) rather than high cuisine, but they are increasingly used in a wide range of dishes, including delicate soups. Swedes are convenience food in their own right – it takes only a mailer of seconds to pall one from the ground, peel, chop and put it to cook.

Swedes (rutabagas or yellow turnips) are not very old as vegetables go, although no one is certain about their origins. It seems likely that they appeared in Europe as a random cross between turnips and cabbages sometime in the Middle Ages. They did not find their way to Britain until the latter part of the 18th century, and it is thought that they were introduced from Sweden, hence the name. The American name “rutabaga” also has Swedish origins, being derived from rotbagga, which is Swedish for “ram’s foot”, an apt visual description of small or immature swedes.

Although they are usually considered a rootcrop, swedes (rutabagas or yellow turnips) actually belong to the cabbage family and, as such, sillier from similar pests and diseases, for this reason, they should be included with the cabbages when you are planning a rotational System. The swollen root of the swede is mainly above ground, with just a small amount being buried. In the better garden varieties, the top of the globe is usually purple, while the lower section, which is hidden from the light, is white. The flesh is a creamy-yellow, usually deepening during cooking. The appearance of the foliage clearly shows its close alliance to the cabbage.

Many gardeners used to sow a later crop of swedes (rutabagas or yellow turnips) around midsummer in order to provide “lops”, or the leaves, which can be used as greens during spring. These can be grown closer together than suggested above for conventional use.


An open site is required. Like most root crops, swedes (rutabagas or yellow turnips) prefer a light soil, although they can be grown on heavier ground. As with most brassicas, the soil should not be too acid. Lime if necessary to bring it to about pH6.5. The ground should not be freshly manured, but it is important that it con­tains as much organic material as possible because the soil should be moisture retentive. Add manure during autumn digging. Sow thinly in late spring or early summer into drills that are 38cm apart and lcm deep. Thin the swedes to 23cm/9in apart, preferably doing this in stages. Make sure that the soil is kept moist throughout summer, otherwise any cheek in the growth may result in woody or split globes, keep the weeds down.


Swedes (rutabagas or yellow turnips) can he harvested from autumn onwards, through­out the winter, once they are large enough to use. Lift the globes as they are required. In most soils they can simply be pulled from the soil, but in heavier ones they may need loosening with a fork first.


Swedes (rutabagas or yellow turnips) are completely hardly and can be left in the soil as long as necessary. Some varieties become woody if they are left in the ground beyond the turn of the year, however, so these should be lilted and stored in trays of just-moist sand or peal (peat moss) and placed in a cool, frost-free shed or garage.

Pests and diseases

Being brassicas, swedes are prone to the same diseases as the rest of the cabbage family. Flea beetles are a particular scourge and the leaves should be dusted with derris as soon as they are spotted. Mildew can also be a problem, but there are now varieties that are resistant. Club root is another problem to look out for.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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