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Nov 16, 2009 07:19 AM

turnip v. rutabaga - what do you call it?

I know that the word rutabaga is the correct term for what I have always called a turnip - a fairly large root vegetable with yellow flesh, a dark purple and tan exterior, which is usually sold waxed in the mid to late fall and is a traditional staple of the New England root cellar.
I know that a turnip is smaller, has white flesh, usually has a light purple and white exterior, which is harvested in the spring and summer and eaten fresh.
Now, my problem is, I have never actually heard anyone call a rutabaga a rutabaga. I've also only very rarely ever encountered actual turnips. So, I'm very curious about the regionality of these two terms. Where do people use turnip for turnips and rutabaga for rutabagas?
I'm fairly confident that, in New England, turnip nearly always means rutabaga. I have never seen either vegetable elsewhere in the US. In other English speaking countries, I've heard turnip used to mean rutabaga (Ireland) or swede used to mean rutabaga (England), but haven't seen real turnips or heard them called anything. In non-English speaking countries, I have only ever heard completely unrelated words used for these two vegetables - though in Spain, nabo is supposed to mean turnip but is actually used for rutabaga.
So, I'd like to know three things:
1. Where are you from?
2. Are turnips and rutabagas commonly eaten there?
3. What do they call these two vegetables?

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  1. 1. Texas.
    2. Yes.
    3. A turnip is a turnip and a rutabaga is a rutabaga. Two different, yet similar, items.

    2 Replies
    1. re: slewfoot

      1. Louisiana
      2. Yes- and very commonly available
      3. Turnip = Turnip Rutabaga = Rutabaga

      1. re: Becca Porter

        1. Toronto On Canada
        2. Yes
        3. My father calls a rutabaga a turnip. I call turnips turnips and rutabagas rutabagas. I also grew up with a lot of British programming and occasionally use swede.

    2. 1. Deep South
      2. Yes they are
      3. Turnips are Turnips...Rutabagas are Rutabagas
      4 Like Rutabagas Ok....LOVE Turnip Roots!!!
      5. Have some in the refrigerator right now mixed in with Turnip/Mustard Greens...Yummy!
      6. Guess what's for supper along with a grilled P-Chop, and baked sweet potato.....:)

      9 Replies
      1. re: Uncle Bob

        6. are they yams or sweet potatoes?

        1. re: Bellachefa

          Almost all of the 'yams' sold in the U.S. are sweet potatoes, but I bet you knew that.

          1. re: John E.

            Actually our local WholeFoods has a variety of both, with an sign explaining the flavor profiles and differences, skin color, flesh color, sweetness etc....

            1. re: Bellachefa

              I don't get to Whole Foods often enough to know that.

              1. re: John E.

                If you get a chance, I recently started tastetesting different varietals and found it interesting. They're so healthy,have a great pantry life, but don't cook with them enoughNot sure if they always have such a wide variety or if it was the winter holidays or that we have a newer larger store. Our local grocer often has an end aisle with yams on one side and sweet potatoes on the other, and they look alike too much to know the difference. Perhaps there isn't one, other then the sign!

                1. re: Bellachefa

                  I always thought yams were much larger than sweet potatoes.

                  I found this article/blog interesting.


                  1. re: John E.

                    Very interesting. I've bookmarked it to give it a closer look!

                  2. re: Bellachefa

                    Yes they are call yams but they are not true yams. They are tubers from the morning glory family. The same family a sweet potato is from

                2. re: Bellachefa

                  I'm quite sure that no Whole Foods has ever carried a true yam.

          2. New England
            In my family growing up, we commonly ate rutabagas and called them turnips, but also recognized that there were what I (eventually) came to understand were "real" turnips, which we called "white turnips." I much prefer the stronger (to me) flavor of rutabagas.

            1. 1. Philadelphia
              2. Yes
              3. Turnips and rutabagas ( have heard the term "Swede" as well for rutabaga)

              1 Reply
              1. re: absurdnerdbird

                "Swede" is the name for "rutabaga" in Britain (and presumably the rest of the Commonwealth).

                Turnips and rutabagas are two different vegetables. However, I get confused about which one is which, so it may very well be that what *you* call a turnip is actually a rutabaga (or vice versa).

              2. 1. Oregon
                2. Yes
                3. Turnip=turnip, Rutabaga=rutabaga - however, my Grandmother, from Pennsylvania refers to rutabagas as swedes.