Swede, the other name of rutabaga

chou navet

Swede, also called rutabaga when its flesh is yellow, is an  ancient heirloom vegetable that is particularly well suited to climates where winters are cold and moist.

Summary of swede facts

Family – brassicas
Type – vegetable

 – 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – humus-rich, well-drained

Flowering – summer
 – 3 to 4 months after sowing, from October to March.

Sowing, planting swede

Sowing swede is best done indoors from February onwards or directly in the ground from May to July.

  • Swede can cope with freezing, on the condition that the soil drain very well.

Cover the swede seeds with ½ inch (1 to 2 cm) soil. Sprouting should occur after ten days.

  • When transplanting them, space rows 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) apart.
  • Within a row, replant at 12 inch (30 cm) intervals.
  • Prefer full sun.
  • Avoid excessively dry soil, and prefer moist soil.
  • Mulch if needed to retain moisture.

Harvesting swede

When harvesting, the swede must feel firm and heavy. A square yard (1 m²) should yield an estimated 9 lbs (4 kg) on average.

Fall and winter swede are best harvested just when you plan to eat them; they will also keep well in a cool and ventilated place.

  • Swede keep best when left in the ground, even all winter long.
  • Pull them out preferably in dry weather.
  • If you bury them in dry sand, they will keep longer still.

Keeping swede

Swede keeps easily over several weeks, preferably in a cellar or in a cool room.

To keep winter swede best, leave them in the ground until March, at least those that have been sown as late as possible.

If you only need to keep them a few days, the vegetable rack in your refrigerator is fine.

Learn more about swede

Swede are said to have therapeutic benefits, among which that they are diuretic and help the digestive tract to “cleanse” itself.


Swedes are most often eaten cooked instead of raw, either mashed, baked with cheese, and even fried much like potatoes to give… swedish fries!

They are often paired with other winter vegetables such as turnips or carrots. They can also be added to typical winter dishes, like soup broth.

It is often easier to peel swedes with a sharp knife rather than the usual vegetable peeler. The thick flesh makes this difficult enough to be forewarned!

Smart tip about swede

Beware of letting the ground dry up, water generously during hotter months.