Getting to the root of vegetables

While you may no longer be able to buy fresh green beans, cucumbers or garden tomatoes at the local farmers market, that doesn’t mean fresh, locally grown vegetables are not available. This time of year, the fresh, locally grown vegetables come from underneath the ground or what we term root vegetables. You know, those vegetables we associate with the hearty stews and thick soups that we gravitate to during cold winter months.

Technically speaking, root vegetables include tuberous roots and taproots, rhizomes, corms or bulbs. While potatoes and carrots are the most common, other root vegetables include beets, parsnips, parsley root, celeriac, rutabagas, turnips and salsify. The good news is that these vegetables are low in fat and calories and generally good sources of fiber. Let’s look at each of these vegetables and how they might be added to your menu.

Beets are excellent sources of folate, a B vitamin important during pregnancy and potassium. We usually think of beets as being garnet red in color, but they can range from deep red to white. When selecting beets, the smaller the tenderer. As with all vegetables be sure to wash under running water before preparation and then peel the skin after cooking.

Parsnips are best harvested and consumed after the first frost, as this converts the root’s starch to sugar giving it a pleasantly sweet flavor. Parsnips are often boiled and mashed like potatoes and are a good source of fiber and folate.

Parsley root’s taste is a cross between carrot and celery with a hint of celery root. This vegetable is best when added to soups and stews but can be used on its on as a side dish.

Celeriac or celery root is a nutrition powerhouse as an excellent source of vitamin K, calcium and potassium. The taste is a strong cross between celery and parsley and may not be to everyone’s liking.

Rutabagas are a member of the cabbage family and look like a turnip. Be sure to peel the rutabaga and then either steam, saute, boil or roast this vegetable.

Salsify or oyster plant is used in savory pies and soups and provides a delicate oyster flavor with nuances of artichoke hearts.

As turnips age their flavor becomes stronger and woodier so select, small, firm turnips for the best flavor. Like parsnips, they can be mashed, pureed, stir-fried or used raw in salads. If the greens are attached be sure to remove them before storing.

While many consider these “old fashioned” vegetables, root vegetables were listed as one of the upcoming food trends in 2018. This is not surprising given the farm-to-table and locavore movement, with people wanting new flavors. These vegetables provide strong, robust flavors and colors and are easy on the budget. Granted they may not be for everyone, but give them a try as you prepare warm, hearty meals for your family this winter.

Roasted Root

Vegetables

4 root vegetables, medium size (select from a variety of root vegetables such as turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, beets)

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, medium chopped

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut vegetables into large chunk. Place in a medium bowl and pour oil over top. Add seasonings or parmesan and mix well./Spread an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour or until fork tender.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from USDA Mixing Bowl

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Submitted by Sharon McDonald, Senior Extension Educator/Food Safety Specialist.

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