Most people know what a turnip is. But not so many are sure they know a rutabega when they see one. Assuming you know what a turnip is and you also know what a cabbage is, we can tell you that a rutabega came about as a cross between the turnip and the cabbage. Yes, we know that’s unlikely, but it seems to be so.
Turnips and rutabegas are members of the plant genus Brassica. In fact, among people who care about such things there’s a theory known as the Triangle of U which diagrams the relationship between members of the Brassica — a theory which has been proven true by DNA studies. But that takes us very far afield. All we wanted to do was to introduce this light, whimsical poem by Marilyn Robertson. It’s called “Roots” and it goes like this…
Is this a turnip? I ask the man arranging vegetables
in the markeet. No, he says, that’s a rutabega.
Here’s a turnip — and he holds up a roundish
white and purple root. The colors are nice,
but the name is not half so musical as rutabega.
It makes me think of jumprope rhymes,
cheerleaders at football games:
Rutabega, Rutabega, sis boom bah.
Or the melodies of old songs: Rutabega moon,
keep shining…Rutabega, here I come,
right back where I started from.
I put a few in my shopping cart.
At the check-out counter,
I ask the young man bagging groceries,
Pardon me, boy, is that the Rutabega choo-choo?
He has no idea what I’m talking about.