The rutabaga has other names: swede, neep, turnip, snagger.
But we prefer the first—it rolls off the tongue.
An offspring of the cabbage and the turnip, this root
vegetable was conceived across the world from us, in Scandinavia.
Stories differ on how it came to be in England,
but in the United States it sprang from our own state of Illinois.
During times of stress and suffering, it was a food of last resort.
Boiled water with rutabaga was a staple food for Germans in World War One.
During World War Two, a girl in the Łódź ghetto wrote in her diary about her father
coming home with two stolen rutabagas to stave off their impending starvation.
We haven’t suffered enough to know the true nature of the rutabaga,
but it has found its way home to us.
On top of the refrigerator sits the vegetable I had never seen before we met.
The brown skin is cold, like rubber to the touch; it begs to be thrown away,
but we keep it still. Over weeks, it reveals more than I ever expected.
It sprouts. Each day we meet it is crowned with more leaves than the last.
It reaches for the luminescent white bulbs and knows nothing of the outside world.
The room is safe. It keeps the rutabaga growing without letting others witness it.
The vegetable will die in this room, reaching up to a false sun for nutrients
it can’t receive. How does it grow? I ask. It feeds off of my love.
How much love is one willing to give to this tortured root of last resort?
The rutabaga needs the sun. It needs to drink water and breathe fresh air.
These leaves that sprout from love need to be unleashed and shared, not caged.
Come plant the rutabaga with me, let us watch it grow together.