Rachael Kelly - Stuff

Swedes or Tuwīti tānapu in Māori are similar to the turnip, but bigger. The swede is one of those vegetables that’s easily available, but a lot of people have never tried it before. So what is this humble vegetable exactly and why is Swede synonymous with Southland?

Swedes are grown all over Southland, usually to feed stock over the winter months, but did you know that boiled and mashed, roasted or in a soup, they also take pride of place for dinner time during those months?

So as you can see we think our swedes are pretty "Swede As"!

All about those Swedes


The top half of the swede is purple, and the lower half cream. Under its purple and cream skin you'll find a soft, creamy yellow/orange flesh with a sweet, nutty flavour that can either be used raw, or give a new twist to a favourite cooked dish.


Swedes are available all year round, but they are harder to get in the summer months of December and January. When traveling through Southland you will find many roadside stalls selling swedes, so make sure you pick up a few along the way, and try one of the recipes below when you do!

Storage and Handling

Choose a swede that feel heavy for its size and is relatively unblemished. Wrinkles around the top are normal, however. As with many vegetables, smaller ones tend to have a sweeter, milder flavour. Stored in the fridge, you can keep swedes for two weeks.


Swede is a nutritious vegetable that’s high in essential minerals. In addition to having some vitamin A and vitamin C, it’s a good source of calcium, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. We're not saying this is why farmers carry a knife with them, but more often than not you'll see them carving a slice to eat while checking their paddocks.

Growing Facts

Swedes are usually planted in January to April They take about three to four months to grow and are best harvested after a frost.

Swede As Facts

  • Swedes belong to the same family as turnips and cabbages
  • Swedes were developed in Sweden in the 17th century, from a hybrid between a turnip and a type of cabbage.
  • Swede is also known as Swedish turnip or rutabaga, rutabaga comes from the Swedish dialectal word rotabagge, from rot (root) and bagge (lump, bunch), referring to the purple, bronze crowns
  • Swedes while quite similar to turnips, however, have yellow orange flesh, not white, and they taste sweeter than turnips
  • Swedes have a delicate, sweet flavour, great texture and are very versatile
  • Different cultures have developed their own ways to use them
    • The Scottish serve them boiled and mashed with their traditional dish, haggis
    • In the American Midwest they are mashed and candied
    • In Finland they are casseroled with cream and spices
    • In the Netherlands the leaves are commonly eaten mixed with mashed potatoes.
  • Swedes are more available in winter and are said to be better tasting after a good frost, hence the best swedes in New Zealand are reputed to be those grown in Southland
  • Although the leaves are eaten in many countries, it is the edible roots that are commercially available in New Zealand