The Swedene – A Vegetable You Can Be Proud Of

The Swedene - A Vegetable You Can Be Proud Of

There's not much better at harvesting late winter berries than the Swede. Roasted swede or lightly roasted rutabaga creates an easy but scrumptious side to be served for dinner, Thanksgiving or on any mid-week evening. It's so easy to prepare, filled with flavour and ready in under half an hour. Voted the best green dish in Sweden, always be aware that this is a healthy dish. Be prepared to dig in and enjoy the flavoursome season fruit of the woods.

The Sable or Sage is an evergreen bush with a sharp, pointed shape. Its flesh is tough and dark brown with an oily sheen. There are several other species in the genus, including the Alsike which grows in Norway and the Passiflora, also from Scandinavia. But the Swedene is the best known, with its flat, smooth blade-like leaves, long pointed branches and the fine, stringy roots. Roasted swede is tender, finely crusted and full of juice when cooking, although it can be left to cool and then enjoyed cold.

Cooking swede is as straightforward as boiling. The longer the leafs are allowed to cook, the deeper and richer the colour will be in the centre. The longer swede has been boiled, the firmer it becomes and the fuller its taste. Use a frying strainer to extract the heartwood - the tough fibres in the centre of the cooking heart - before cooking. The flesh of the tree is rich in tannin and as a result should not be overcooked, being a natural appetizer. Before serving, steam the centre thoroughly.

In the same spirit as Swedish berries, the Swedish potato is a traditional Christmas treat for many households. However, they do not tend to stay fresh for very long and are prone to mould growth and bacteria. A more suitable alternative for cooks hoping to include these tasty green potatoes in their menus is the French counterpart, the Fondue. The basic ingredients of this dish are the same as for the Swedish, just substituted for butter, flour and cheese in the French version. The Swiss also make Fondue but do not use butter or the vegetable oil that the Swede often does.

While some would suggest the British turnip as a replacement for the Swedish, this is actually not an advisable idea. The turnips are typically long, rather than short and are not as easily cooked as the Swedish. They also have a tendency to be rather sour and quite salty and the taste they retain is not always favourable. For a similar, though not exact, substitute, swede is the perfect ingredient. It can be used instead of butter in stewed vegetables or mixed with flour to make puff pastry or puddings.

As with all vegetables it is best to cook them to perfection before adding any spices. Certain types of swedes, such as Lovagno or Bissotti, lend themselves especially well to being cooked on the stove and are usually best left in their own liquid. In this way the colour, flavour and texture are preserved. The same principle applies to carrots - the longer they are cooked, the sweeter they become, so if one wants to add them to a recipe as a nice contrast to the other ingredients, Swedes and carrots are perfect companions.

The great thing about the vegetable is that one can use them in a great number of recipes. A simple mix of chopped swedes and carrots with some butter is great in pork pies, sausages and the like. One also has the opportunity to add a bit of cooking salt and pepper to the mixture to enhance the taste and result. Carrots are also a good base for frying potatoes, which is an excellent method of creating a popular and tasty vegetable.

In fact, vegetables are a real example of a root vegetable and make a great ingredient in many recipes, but no-one seems to be talking about the beautiful Swedish vegetable. The reason for this may be that although the Swede is well known for his love of vegetables, he does not eat them very often. This may well be down to his habit of sauntering into work in the morning and coming back in the evening to a plate of vegetables that have been boiled in a pan all day. However, the good health benefits of eating the sweet root vegetables are well worth including the sweet taste of the sweet potato pie that a swede like me loves!