Botanical Name: Brassica napus var. napobrassica
Rutabaga plants produce two crops at once: greens above ground and an edible root that grows right at the surface. Take advantage of this bounty to harvest and freeze some of it at the peak of ripeness. The happy result is a supply of ready-to-cook foods that you clean and chop ahead of time, in the case of the greens – or cook and mash, in the case of the rutabaga root.
Dinner time? Just re-heat.
Careful, though! Freezing foods won’t keep them good forever, and rutabaga products have only about four months in the freezer before the quality falls off. Be sure that if you put rutabaga in the freezer you mark the calendar to ensure the food gets cooked and enjoyed.
Use only heavy-duty freezer bags and boxes, to deter frost damage. These items are available in most grocery stores. And consider investing in a vacuum sealing machine that can greatly extend the freezer life of foods by removing oxygen from the containers.
The key to preparing rutabaga greens is to blanch the leaves, then chill and dry them very quickly. That is, to boil the rutabaga greens — or steam them or microwave them — to stop enzyme action that causes spoilage.
Preparing the greens properly is best done by swishing them gently in a sink filled with cold water, draining well, and chopping; remove any tough stems first.
Blanching just means plunging the greens (washed and chopped, remember) into boiling water,for instance. Cooking time is two or three minutes, just enough to get some steam rising and to turn the greens a bright green.
While they cook, prepare an ice water bath using a large bowl, cold water, and plenty of ice cubes. The idea is to take the greens directly from the steaming hot water and stop the cooking process as quickly as possible.
Why? Stopping the blanching process keeps the greens bright.
Now, once blanching has been arrested, dry the greens gently by placing them on paper towels or clean tea towels, and blotting dry. Now it is safe to freeze them. Try rolling the chopped greens into freezer bags.
To freeze rutabaga root, cook and mash it, adding buttermilk, herbs, spices, maybe a little cheese. Anything at all. Mashed rutabaga mixes well with potato. Prepare any mix, pack it into heavy weight plastic freezer boxes, and put it away in the freezer … just for a while.
Freezing rutabaga in single or double servings is a good way to cut waste from freezing too much in a batch.