Heirloom Organic American Purple Top Rutabaga
Heirloom Organic American Purple Top Rutabaga
Heirloom Organic American Purple Top Rutabaga
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Heirloom Organic American Purple Top Rutabaga

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Heirloom Organic American Purple Top Rutabaga. (AKA Swedish Turnip) 25 Seeds
The rutabaga is actually a horticultural cross between a turnip and a cabbage; it was created by Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin in the seventeenth century, though it didn't arrive in this country until 1806. Rutabagas are commonly called fall or Swedish turnips or simply Swedes. (Because of their liking for cool, glacial soil, they're widely grown and eaten in Sweden and other northern countries.) Additionally, rutabagas can tolerate frost better than turnips, and the roots can be stored for up to a year.

For planting depth, follow the instructions on the seed packet. Generally, seeds should be sown at a depth of 1/2 inch, or 1/4 inch for early spring plantings.

Rake and aerate the soil, plant seeds every few inches in rows, and then thin to six inches apart when seedlings are a few inches high. Rows should be spaced two feet apart.

You can also choose to broadcast and rake seeds into a bed of soil and thin later to give each plant 6 inches of room to grow.

Full sized rutabaga roots can grow fairly large, about the size of a grapefruit. Soil needs to be 40 degrees for germination, which can take one to two weeks.

As a cool weather crop, plantings should be timed for harvest in late autumn, or even through the winter in warmer climates.

Leaves can be harvested and eaten when young, but roots take approximately 90 days to mature, and they become tastier and more tender after the first or second frost.

Rutabaga should be planted in early to mid-summer depending on your zone, generally about three months before the first expected frost date.

In warmer southern climates where the ground doesn’t freeze solid, it is also possible to plant before the last frost date in early spring for a first round. But keep in mind that hot weather can make roots taste bitter and woody.

Horizontal image of rutabaga leaves with frost on the surface, in dappled sunshine.
At my home in Vermont (USDA Hardiness Zone 4b) I plant rutabaga in mid-June, just as my spring greens are wrapping up the season.

Find a site in full sun or partial shade. It does not need heavily fertile soil, but does require a neutral pH and loose, well drained soil that retains moisture.

Though not heavy feeders, it is always a great idea to amend soil with organic materials such as composted manure before planting, which will increase the health of the soil and the size of your crop.

If your soil is on the acidic side, mix some wood ash into your soil just before planting to lower the acidity.

While you are waiting patiently for the tasty roots to mature, be sure to weed regularly and water well!

Horizontal closeup image of a dusty purple rutabaga with leaves emerging from the top, in dark brown soil among withered leaves.
Water is the key to a successful rutabaga crop. This plant prefers constant and consistent moisture for a tender, well-flavored crop.

Dry soil will change the taste of the root, causing it to be fibrous and forcing the plant to send up seed stalks. Additionally, when the soil changes dramatically from wet to dry, the roots can split. Watering is most important as the roots are maturing.

Consider rotating with plants that are heavier feeders, such as squash or corn.
Do not plant near other brassicas, such as kale or cabbage.
Avoid planting near mustard greens, which can inhibit growth.
Excellent companion plant to onions or climbing peas.
Use drip irrigation to ensure that the soil stays consistently and evenly moist, but not waterlogged.
Mulch heavily when leaves are a few inches tall, to help retain moisture, keep down weeds, and prevent frost damage.
Harvest just after first frost for superb flavor.
The main variety available is the ‘American Purple Top,’ an heirloom with large yellow roots and a purple crown. It has sweet, firm flesh that turns orange when it is cooked.

Square overhead image of two white and purple 'American Purple Top' rutabagas with long white roots and pale green tops, on a brown wood surface.

Plant Type: Biennial, generally grown as an annual Water Needs: Consistent moisture
Native To: Scandinavia Maintenance: Moderate
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 3-9 Soil Type: Various
Season: Fall in northern zones, winter/early spring in southern zones Soil pH: Acidic to neutral, 5.5-7.0
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade Soil Drainage: Well draining
Time to Maturity: 90 days Companion Planting: Peas, onions
Spacing: 2 feet Avoid Planting With: Other brassicas, mustard greens
Planting Depth: 1/2 inch (1/4 inch for early spring plantings) Family: Brassicaceae
Height: 1 foot Genus: Brassica
Spread: 6 inches Species: B. napus
Tolerance: Low fertility soil Cultivar Group: Napobrassica
Pests & Diseases: Clubroot, root knot, cabbage moths, flea beetles, root maggots, slugs, aphids