By The FruitGuys
‘Tis the season for root vegetables, so named for their underground lifestyles. While carrots and potatoes are the best known and most eaten of the root veggies, read up and taste some of their lesser known but equally yummy and nutritious relatives, such as parsnips, beets, celeriac, rutabaga, turnips, and sweet potatoes.
Root veggies have the advantage of being in season during winter and being relatively inexpensive. They are all high in fiber and have slow-digesting carbohydrates, which give us energy longer and make us feel full, reducing overeating. They are all delicious roasted, or used in soups, stews, or even salads.
The ABCs of Root Veggies
Basic root veggie roasting: all root veggies can be easily roasted, on their own or mixed together.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Just wash, scrub, and cut to desired size (1–2-inch pieces). Toss the veggies with olive oil and a little salt. Spread them on a baking tray and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. (If desired, add onion and/or garlic to the mix.) When cooked, remove and add salt, pepper, and fresh herbs if you like.
Beets are a two-fer veggie: One is the fruitful root, and two are the leafy greens. Beets have a special pigment called betalains, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Use the greens as you would kale, cooked or tossed fresh into a salad. While some people boil the beet root until tender, this causes a loss of nutrients, color, and texture. For use in salads: just scrub and roast in a covered casserole dish at 400ºF until easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Then rinse in cold water and peel. Use them sliced in salads.
Celery Root (Celeriac)
Celery root, or celeriac, is a versatile and edible root prized for its delicate flavor, not its looks. Once peeled, it can be sliced, julienned, or grated. Blanched, it reveals what Chef John Ash calls “the quintessential winter vegetable.” Celery root is excellent when pureed in soups. Or simply broil slices with a little olive oil and salt, and other veggies if desired. Boiled and mashed celery root provides a flavorful side dish, similar to mashed potatoes. Try incorporating celery root into casseroles with, or in place of, potatoes for added flavor. Celeriac is also delicious raw and grated into salads.
The saying is “Parsnip goes down to meet the devil twice before it comes up.” Parsnip is a flavorful root vegetable related to the carrot, but with a sweeter taste, especially when cooked. Delicious in stews, it can also be roasted on its own or with other root veggies, and even made into fries, like potatoes.
Rutabaga, rutabaga, sis boom bah! A root hero, the rutabaga is filling, warming, and nutritious. Combined with potatoes or other roots, such as carrots, they are a favorite for Swedish, Finnish, Scottish, and Welsh family meals. “Rutabaga” comes from the Swedish for “root ram” and is also known as a “Swede.” A cross between a turnip and a cabbage, rutabagas are delicious mashed like potatoes with olive oil and a dash of nutmeg and salt; raw in salads; or roasted.
Sweet potatoes are no relation to European potatoes or yams, although they are often called “yams” in the U.S. They’re a genuine “super food”—1 cup of baked sweet potato contains around 770% of the daily allowance of vitamin A! Sweet potatoes generally fall into two types: the white or yellow dry-fleshed type, which are higher in starch; and the garnet, red, purple, or orange type, which have a moister quality and are higher in sugar. They caramelize exceptionally well. Bake like a baked potato and eat with a dab of butter and similar toppings, mash, or roast with other roots.
Why do turnips remind us of Dickens? Because they contributed to the English Industrial Revolution. Viscount “Turnip” Townshend introduced turnips into the four-field crop rotation, allowing for more food production. This enabled many farm workers to find work in the textile mills. Turnip root and leaves are highly nutritious for all working people. Smaller turnips will have a more delicate taste and texture and can be grated into salads and slaws. Roast them along with other roots or cut them into “fries” and coat with oil and seasonings and fry.