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Give Swede a chance!
Forget those pathetic school meal offerings and don’t go turning your nose up just yet… cooked properly, swedes have a smooth, slightly sweet, nutty taste, making it a superb accompaniment for loads of meals. It makes an interesting addition to stir fries, is superb when roasted, traditionally added to winter stews and casseroles and is commonly boiled and mashed. In some parts of Scotland it is known as neeps and often served mashed alongside veggie haggis as part of the traditional supper on Burns Night. It can also be used raw! As boiling swede will cut down on large amounts of nutrients that you can get from it why not try it finely grated in a salad..? (that’s a rhetorical question!) Escaping German prisoner of war, and flamboyant Luftwaffe Messerschmitt fighter pilot, Franz von Werra reportedly quelled his hunger pangs on raw swede whilst on the run from Grizedale Hall in the Lake District during World War Two!
Swede is relatively low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making it a great choice for a diet to support heart-health. It is relatively high in natural sugars but has a low glycaemic load meaning that it won’t push up your blood sugars quickly. It’s also a useful source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, thiamin, vitamin B6, folic acid, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
The swede is thought to have originated in central Europe (perhaps even Sweden!) as a cross between the turnip and cabbage. Wonder who had that bright idea? In the 17th century it was widely eaten in England and France, where it was known by some as the Siamese Cabbage. It became an increasingly important European crop by the eighteenth century and somehow developed a reputation for being able to release the aggressive energy and intellectual powers of entire nations! There is even a theory that links the spread of swede cultivation with overthrowing the southern dominance of Europe, beginning with the Thirty Years War (but I’m not sure I’d mention that in your History GCSE coursework!).
During the nineteenth century swedes had reached the USA (where it is sometimes known as rutabaga), and then moved into Canada, but it’s still a much more popular food in North and East Europe, perhaps because it’s a hardy plant that is frost-tolerant and thrives in moist soil. The rest of the world don’t know what they’re missing!
In the UK, in 2005, over 3,000 hectares of swede fields produced a huge 114,100 tonnes so there should always be enough to go around for everyone (and might explain why we’re always getting involved in wars!).
Interestingly, before the modern-day pumpkin invasion swedes were also commonly used for lanterns during Halloween celebrations. They must have had much sharper knives in those days…