In connection with the solar eclipse we got visitors from Italia. During such a visit several activities are in play, excursions, museums, but indeed also food. It turned out that they were very interested in trying Faroese food, both grind (pilot whale), spik (blubber), skerpikjøt (dried sheep meat) and rullupylsa (sausage made of rolled mutton) – and what else we could think of. In return we got a great selection of unique food from Italy – cheese, balsamico, spagetti, tortellini, tomato sauce, kake.

Hence food was also a subject for discussion, and usually the discussion ran without problems – untill the day we should explain what swede (in Faroese kálrabi) is. The discussion was held in English, so it was the words “swede” or “turnips” we had to decide on – and as a biologist it was important for me to get the proper word on the roots that we had as a side together with the roasted lamb. In Faroese there was no doubt, the roots were kálrabi. Some knew for sure that in Scotland these roots were called turnips. And sure, it isn’t just in the Faroes that we can have a lively discussion on the name of the roots – they do so also in UK, as can be seen in this entertaining article in The Guardian from 2010.

The conclusion of our discussion of the name of the root was that we were eating what they in Italy call rapa – and in daily use they do not distinguish between the type of root. This is also expressed in the Faroese-Italian dictionary.

In the Faroese dictionary the word kálrabi can’t be found, and the only entry in the Danish-Faroese dictionary is that this is the same as “kålroe” (cabbage-root). The reason for this is probably that the word kålrabi has it’s origin from a mix up with the cabbage kohlrabi. So it is not only i UK, Italy and the Faroes that there are uncertainties on the roots, but indeed also in the other Northern countries.