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Swede, how to sow, grow and get large roots for winter

Swede, Brassica napobrassica

Swede, also called rutabaga when its flesh is yellow, is an ancient heirloom vegetable.

Summary of swede facts

Family – Brassicaceae
Type – vegetable

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

Flowering: summer  –  Harvest: 3-4 months after sowing, so fall/winter/spring

Swede is particularly well suited to climates where winters are cold and moist.

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.

Swede planting sowingCover 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.

Pests on swede

If you notice tiny eggs on the underside of leaves, they might come from large white. They’ll hatch and eat away at leaves but won’t harm the roots.

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.

Swede harvestingFall and winter swede are best when you harvest them just as 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

Keeping swedeSwede 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. Actually, staging the sowing will give you different sizes to choose from.

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 several therapeutic benefits. Chief among is the fact that they are great diuretics and help the digestive tract to “cleanse” itself.


Swede is most often eaten cooked instead of raw. Try it out either mashed, baked with cheese, and even fried much like potatoes to give… swedish fries!

You can combine them in meals with other winter vegetables such as turnips or carrots. They can also be tasty extenders for 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, so take care.

Smart tip about swede

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

Images: adobestock: JackF, CC BY-SA 2.0: Michael Potts, Johnathan Nightingale, Ben Schumin
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