Rooting for Root Veggies

1.23.17 – It’s a new year, and for many of us that means new goals and new resolutions. Here at Food Forward, one of our goals (all year round!) is to discover new ways of cooking with local and seasonal produce.

This month, we’re featuring something delicious and healthy that you may have forgotten about. Although we were always “rooting” for these veggies, they had fallen out of favor for a while. Luckily, now they’re back and more popular than ever. Let’s talk about root vegetables!

Volunteer carrot harvest

What are root vegetables?

Root vegetables are the underground, edible part of a plant. In root vegetables, the roots swell up and can grow quite large. When it’s time, we pull them up and eat them! Because they have been growing underground, these veggies may have thick skins or funny shapes, but that’s all part of their charm.

Vegetables in this category are very nutrient-dense because they pull in many nutrients directly from the soil in which they grow. They are filled with complex carbohydrates and fiber, and they are often very low in calories.

While root vegetables are generally available all year round, they are at their peak in the winter. Historically, when little else grew in the dark months of the new year, families would take root vegetables from their storage spot in the root cellar and make them the stars of stews, soups, and other hearty dishes.

Even though today we have access to many kinds of fresh produce all winter long, there’s something special about cooking with these important vegetables during the colder, darker months.

At your farmers’ market, shop for high quality winter root vegetables the opposite way you shop for summer fruits. Look for hard specimens that don’t have any softness to them.

Can't beat these beets

Popular root veggies:

Carrots: you know them and love them as a raw snack and in salads, but they are also great roasted and in well-flavored winter stews. Carrots are sweet and they pair nicely with other vegetables.

Parsnips: they look like larger versions of carrots, but they’re white. Parsnips have a mild, slightly spiced flavor and are often pureed into soups.

Turnips: a very mild flavor, making them great for supporting other stronger-flavored vegetables. Puree turnips or include them in chunky soups.

Rutabaga: a subtle flavor which tends to be on the earthy side. Rutabaga pairs well with herbs, especially dill.

What are the ways to eat root vegetables?

Raw – while we often eat carrots raw, many of the other root vegetables are be too tough and too earthy for most people to enjoy raw.

Steamed or boiled – cook root vegetables this way if you’re going to mash them (as a replacement for mashed potatoes) or puree them.

Roasted – this is a hugely popular way to enjoy root vegetables of all kinds. For the simplest version, cut the veggies up into pieces, coat in oil and salt and pepper, and roast in a hot oven until crispy. For more complex roasted veggies check out these recipes:

In stews or soups – chopped up root vegetables combined with herbs and other ingredients are a great way to showcase the unique flavors these vegetables impart. If you’re chilly in the California winter, try some of these hearty, warming recipes:

You can’t beet those roots – Enjoy!

Vendor with carrots

Sources:

http://www.naturalnews.com/048207_root_vegetables_health_benefits_garlic.html

http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com/2015/01/what-are-root-vegetables.html

http://ohmyveggies.com/a-guide-to-root-vegetables/

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