Growing and Saving the Seed Of Rutabaga

Rutabagas are closely related to turnips, another member of the Brassica, or cabbage, family. Rutabagas are larger and sweeter than turnips.



Rutabagas are believed to have originated in Russia. They were first mentioned by a Swiss botanist who observed them growing wild in Sweden in the 1600s. Although they are a popular vegetable in Europe, they are not as cherished in Germany. This is because rutabaga stew, consisting of just water and rutabagas, was a staple during the food shortages of World War I and World War II. The word rutabaga comes from the Swedish word “rotabagge.” In Europe, rutabaga is known as swede or tumshie. In Scotland, it’s called neep. In the U.S., rutabaga is often called Swedish turnip or yellow turnip.


  • Culinary
  • Grown for animal fodder




  • Rutabagas like rich, well-worked soil, so try double digging to ensure a fluffy root zone.
  • Sow seeds 90 days before the first frost date for rutabagas.
  • Thin plants to about 8-12 inches apart.
  • Keep plants moist and well weeded. 
  • Seeds germinate in 45-85 F.

  • Sow seeds ¼ inch deep.

  • Seeds germinate in 4-7 days.




  • Growing rutabaga is very similar to growing turnips. They are a long-season crop (longer than turnips), and they require 90-120 days to maturity.
  • Rutabagas are cold tolerant and taste best when harvested in late fall.


  • Rutabagas are insect pollinated, so they will need ¼ mile spacing from other varieties to ensure pure seeds. (Turnips cross with other turnips but not with rutabagas.)
  • Flea beetles, leaf miners and the cabbage maggot can be controlled in spring crops with row covers. Cover at seeding and seal the edges with soil to exclude the cabbage maggot fly.


  • Like other cabbage family members, these crops are usually biennial, which means they flower in the second year.
  • You will need to either overwinter plants with mulch or row cover, or dig the roots up and replant in the early spring. Digging is preferred because it allows you to select only the largest, choicest roots for seed production.
  • Cut flower stalks when pods have dried, place into a bag and shake seeds loose.
  • Seeds will store for 5 years.