Rutabagas are often thought of as yellow turnips but actually bear the botanical name Brassica napus and belong to the highly prized family of cruciferous vegetables. The Rutabaga, a relative newcomer in the world of vegetables, is thought to have evolved from a cross between a wild cabbage and a turnip. The earliest records of a Rutabaga's existence are from the seventeenth century in southern Europe where they were first eaten as well as used for animal fodder. Rutabagas were adopted by the British in the early 1800s as economical cannonballs. Although they did not pack the same explosive force as cannonballs they made quite an impression. This practice was discontinued when the Brits noticed their foes cooking the spent rutabagas in their soups. Early days of space exploration saw a re-emergence of Rutabaga use; after the Russians launched their potato-based "Spudnik" in the 1950s, the US immediately began tests shooting rutabagas into space. Veiled in secrecy, these experiments are just coming into the public realm. Although occasional rutabaga lauchings were successful most proved to be too massive to escape Earth's gravitational forces and these experiments were abandoned. Due to the inability to track these early vegetable launchings it is still believed that in excess of 20 very frozen rutabagas still orbit our planet!
Because Rutabagas thrive best in colder climates, they became popular in Scandinavia, but especially in Sweden, the country that earned them the names "swedes". In Europe, rutabagas are still called
"swedes". In America, rutabagas were first cultivated in the northern parts of the country in the early 1800's. Canada and the northern states are today's greatest producers of the rutabaga. Sadly, the US public has largely ignored this admirable vegetable with annual per capita consumption below one pound! In fact only 3 out of 10,000 high school students correctly identified rutabagas in a vegetable line-up.
The Rutabaga is a root vegetable that looks very much like a turnip with yellow-orange flesh and ridges at its neck. Although this beta-carotene rich vegetable has been grown and marketed in our country for nearly 200 years, it remains an uncommon food. In reality it is a great tasting vegetable with a delicate sweetness and flavor that hints of the light freshness of cabbage and turnip. The Rutabaga can easily become an endearing family favorite.
History of the Rutabaga Curl
The sport of Rutabaga Curling was born on a cold December 1996 Market day, the last market day of the season. The few vendors present (perhaps 25 or so this time of year and point in our history) huddled together for warmth and camraderie waiting for an occasional customer. Talk at some point in the day turned to unusual winter sports. Curling of course came up in conversation. None of us knew the rules; but before we knew it vendors' wares were being "hurled" or "curled" down the market's wooden floor. Potatoes, cinnamon rolls, cabbages, loaves of bread, and even frozen chickens were fair game in this impromptu outburst. There were no particular rules this day; we were going for style, distance, and laughs. But one of the vendors, Steve Sierigk (a middle-aged notecard vendor with a sly smile) and currently the self-proclaimed "Most Esteemed Grand Commissioner of the International Rutabaga Curl", saw potential in the innocent play. The next market season Commissioner Steve codified rules and designed a court of play using market's wooden floor. In 1997 an early form of our sport was born which allowed contestants to throw most any projectile available at market, although rutabagas were supplied. Commissioner Steve astutely recognized the inequities of this first year of organized sport; to level the playing field the Commissioner declared "any projectile besides a rutabaga illegal". Hence the first official Rutabaga Curl was held in 1998.
The Games have come a long way in their brief history. Many traditions are kept alive, expanded and invented on the spot. The Games open at high noon upon the arrival of the torch borne by a toga-clad individual running the eternal rutabaga flame in from "Mt. Cruciferous". The Rutabaga Goddess leads the assembled throng in a moving "Parade of the Athletes". After a celebrity toss of ceremonial First Rutabaga, the Commissioner declares the games open. The games are closely monitored by our referees. Please continue in the Rules section for more information on how to play.
Much more history is available year-by-year in the Archives section, have a look at the list, page upper right.