Rutabagas look like old turnips. The outside is more yellowed, the tops are darker purple, and they appear a little bit scuffed up. In comparison, turnips look youthful and fair. Rutabagas also taste more mellow, like they’ve figured out that you don’t have to be quite so spicy to get noticed.
Apparently, rutabagas are called Swedes in other parts of the world, and indeed do hail from Sweden. In fact, “rutabaga” is supposedly a badly-pronounced version of “turnip-cabbage” in Swedish. Unfortunately, the only Swedish chef I could think to ask for verification is the one from the Muppets, and I’m pretty sure he pronounces it “gbergaberga.”
After doing extensive research of two whole websites online, I also discovered that rutabaga have a “dangerous” reputation. A UK paper had reported that 2/3 of kitchen injuries resulted from attempting to cut super-dense veggies. Speaking from personal experience, I can testify that reputation is well-earned. I’d say rutabagas are only slightly behind pumpkin and spaghetti squash in that regard, and only because they’re smaller so it’s marginally easier to get leverage on a regular-sized knife. (Next time I attack a pumpkin, I’m using a machete!)