Winter rutabaga

It’s January and we are still eating rutabagas from the garden. Comparing the kohlrabi and the rutabaga, I have been more impressed with how the rutabaga kept its texture. That won’t stop me from planting kohlrabi in the future–it just means that I have to remember to eat them sooner.

I tried to give a few of each to the pigs to eat, but they didn’t seem impressed. Other than eating the greens off the tops, they left them laying around in their pen. Our dogs don’t seem to mind eating the peelings. I guess they have lower food standards than the pigs.

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13 Responses to Winter rutabaga

  1. I cooked rutabaga for the first time this last week, we roasted it in the oven and I loved it. How hard is it to grow? And do you know if the peelings are safe for chickens?

  2. Ron says:

    Our first set of pigs was not picky at all, would eat hot peppers that we tossed their way. The 2nd set was a lot more picky.

    I think it was because the first set had to fight for scraps from day one, until we got them, and the 2nd set was pampered. That’s my theory anyway.

    I’ve never tried growing rutabagas. This year’s experiment might be turnips though.


  3. Sheila Z says:

    Cook the root veggies and the pigs are more likely to go for them. They instinctively know that too many raw vegetables will give them an upset stomach. They have digestive systems that work more like a human rather than a ruminate (cow, goats, sheep, etc.). If they are really hungry then they may over eat raw vegetables to their detriment. Years ago my parents nearly killed a couple of pigs once by tossing cull potatoes into the pig pen as we dug the winter supply of potatoes out of the garden. Had to have the vet come out and douse them with quart pop bottles filled with Milk of Magnesia. They were so bloated that the vet said they would have died in another hour if left untreated.

  4. Benita says:

    Two more days to fresh sausage!!!

  5. lee says:

    Krisann – We find rutabagas to be really easy to grow and we like their sweet flavor. They are much easier to start than carrots. We had to thin this batch a lot, as they came up in dense little rows. The only pests we’ve experienced so far are slugs (which eat the tops if you don’t control their population) and root maggots (a fly larva that crawls along the outside of the root and eats a trail). In Oregon, root maggots also attack beets, kohlrabi, and turnips. Neither pest really ruins the harvest.

    I would expect that they are fine for chickens. You can eat them raw.

    Ron – Sounds like a reasonable theory about your pampered pigs. I’ve noticed that our pigs get much more motivated when they are a little hungry. On the two occasions that I let their feeder run empty, they were chewing on the straw bales, eating grass, and cleaning up all the vegetable scraps laying around. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I might do differently when I raise pigs next time. I’d love to have them range more extensively, provide scheduled food instead of constant food, and take advantage of natural food sources (like our extensive hazelnut crop … and blackberry roots). They would grow a lot slower, and I’d probably have to find a heritage breed. No fixed plans at the moment. I need to learn more about pig nutrition and diet.

    I like rutabagas more than turnips, but Robin likes them both and we’ll continue to grow them both. They are both pretty low maintenance, which is a good fit for us.

    Sheila – I’m sure cooking the rutabagas would increase their palatability. We gave them some leftover cooked brussels sprouts one night, and they ate them all. Later we gave them some raw brussels sprouts and they haven’t touched them. I’m not sure that raw vegetables are bad for them in general though. On Ebey Farm, he provides free choice salad to his pigs and hasn’t reported any problems.

    I’ve heard a similar story to your parents’ about pigs told by several people, and the common factor always seems to be potatoes. As a member of the Solanaceae family, potatoes are high in several toxic alkaloid, with the highest concentration being right below the skin. Cooking partially breaks down these compounds so they don’t affect us, but I expect that large quantities served raw to pigs could cause some serious problems.

    Your comment about pig’s digestive system being similar to ours is well taken. Before we got these two pigs, we were telling a neighbor about our plans to feed them boiled eggs, shell and all. He asked if we’d eat eggs like that ourselves, because pigs had the same digestive track. We took his advice, and shelled the eggs. I suppose we were just imagining our pigs as being more like our dogs, which can eat whole boiled eggs without problem largely because their digestive track is a straight pipe.

    Benita – I know! I’m excited and nervous.

  6. Since we’re considering pigs in the spring, I appreciate the lessons! Rutabagas, no. Eggs, yes. I’ll give the chickens the heads-up.

    As much as we’d like pigs to eat scraps and leftovers and other “waste” (we have access to spent grain from the local brewery), I’ve been given to understand that, if you want them to grow quickly, feed that’s formulated for pigs has to be a big part of their diet. We’d like to start in the spring and slaughter in the fall — can you do that without a hefty proportion of their feed being actual pig feed?

  7. I think its funny that you guys couldn’t get the pigs to eat rutabaga. Especially since you’ll be using some of that scrumptuous bacon to season those yummy turnip-like veggies in a couple of days!

    Remember the recipe, I’m sure it’s similar to what I do with turnips:

    – fry some bacon in a medium saucepan. save the fat, and set bacon aside
    – boil some rutabagas
    – when rutabagas are cooked through, add some flour to heated fat over med-lo heat
    – stir fat and flour enough to mix (roux). don’t let the roux get brown.
    – pour some of the hot rutabaga water into the roux, and keep stiring with a wire whisk. use as much water to desired consistency of gravy
    – when gravy is thoroughly mixed add boiled rutabagas, and simmer on low until gravy is thickened
    – crumble bacon on top of rutabagas and gravy
    – add salt and pepper to taste
    – enjoy!


  8. lee says:

    Tamar – The short answer is that I don’t know. I’ve read about this a bit, and I’m also interested in the idea. Pigs require more expensive inputs than animals like cows and sheep that can live on forage. Once upon the time they were used as city garbage disposals and herded out into the forests to eat nuts and acorns and forage, but those were different pigs than the commercial breeds of today and that was a much slower way to raise pigs. My guess is that spent brewery grain could form the basis of a productive pig feed (ours was based on wheat middlings), but it would require a good understanding of pig nutrition to go from there. Ebey Farm sometimes talks about the issues related to feeding pigs (he supplements commercial feed with brewery grain), and the misinformation available too. Gold Forest Farms also writes about pastured and low-input pig raising. Finally, I have an old copy of one book which discusses alternate feeds: Small-Scale Pig Raising. If you find other useful links or books on the subject, I’d be interested to know.

    steven – Sounds good! We’ll definitely give it a try. Thanks

  9. Bruce king says:

    You can feed a variety of things to a pig and have it gain weight, but I’d advise caution when looking at surplus food items. Make sure that you understand completely why the food is being discarded. If it’s bread past expiration date, that’s fine. If it’s bread that was baked with contaminated flour, not so good.

    The second area of concern is food that is post-consumer. I’m talking about things like plate scrapings from food places, for instance. This is a traditional source of low-cost pig feed, but the risk is that your pigs can get diseases from the original source of the food. If you’re going to feed post-consumer waste you must bring it to boil and keep it there (according to the wa. department of ag) for 30 minutes to sterilize it.

    It’s fine to feed pigs scraps from your own table — whatever you have your pigs are already probably exposed to, and there’s no new source of contagen there, but you can’t legally sell that pig to others. (in wa. state again, your state laws may vary)

    If you have a firm deadline to meet as far as a slaughter date, you’ll need 6-7 months for growout, and a consistent source of calories for your pigs; prepared feeds are the easiest way to do that. If you can be a little more relaxed about slaughter you can feed it a variety of things and when it gets to the right weight you schedule it. Maybe 6 months, maybe 8, maybe 12. Depends on the nutrition you make available.

    Spent grain from breweries makes a good component for diet; it’s sterile when produced, has a good amount of roughage, and you can mix stuff into it (like expired milk) that the pigs will like. If you read the label on your prepared feed you’ll probably find spent grain in some of it, too.

    Some stuff I feed my pigs:

  10. Bruce king says:

    oh yea; i planted turnips last year and the pigs seemed to enjoy both the greens and the tubers.

  11. lee says:

    Thanks for the additional details Bruce. Hopefully Tamar swings back by this post at some point to find all the new info.

  12. ..I know I have said this before but I am so envious!..growing veggies? Not really possible for me right now unless veggies can grow at -16C under 3ft of snow. I do have some books on growing hardy things over the winter in a small greenhouse but did not get to it…hopefully next year! I am suprised that the dogs had lower standards then the pigs..maybe I have seen too many episodes of ‘Deadwood’! šŸ˜‰

  13. lee says:

    Wow, where are you located? I haven’t seen a location mentioned on your blog. Sounds way too cold for me! I grew up in the Midwest, and I’m perfectly happy not seeing snow.

    Well .. vegetables “growing” is perhaps an overstatement. Things grow very slowly when we have warmer winters days, but lots of things overwinter here quite well. While on the east coast people have to resort to mache and other hardy greens to handle winter temperatures, we can overwinter many different greens, brassicas, root crops, and so forth.

    Our dogs aren’t exactly normal. We’ve given them vegetable scraps since they were little, and they’ll eat almost anything. A couple days ago they stuffed themselves on collard green stems and trimmings. It was pretty funny to watch.

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