Now before my fellow “fans of foil” get out of sorts, I’m not suggesting we give up our hair dye. Truthfully, I may prefer organic fruits and veggies, but saying no to my standing seven-week glam squad appointment just won’t happen, at least in this lifetime. (What’s a little Balayage highlighting between friends?)
What I’m referring to is these absolutely fabulous root vegetables that have been invading our markets and farm stands all winter. With all of our interests in eating more locally and seasonally, this would be the perfect time to give these babies a try. They may look a little bit gnarly and not very handsome, but as with humans, looks can often be deceiving. Rough on the outside may reveal a sweet and delicious inside.
Here are the facts:
Benefits of Root Vegetables
- Great vegetables for those who want to eat locally and seasonally.
- Energetically grounding which means they help balance out the spacey mind we sometimes get after eating sweet foods.
- Great way to add a warming effect to our bodies during the cold winter.
- Roasting root vegetables will create the most warmth in our bodies, while eating root vegetables raw will have the most cooling effect.
So we’re all familiar with carrots, beets, and potatoes, but here are three roots you may have never tried.
CELERIAC (AKA Celery Root)
- Related to common celery, yet instead of being grown for its stalks and foliage, it is grown for the bulbous root.
- Used to be popular in America in the 1800’s.
- It was an easy and beneficial crop to grow at home because of its long storage life. As long-term storage became less important for the family and appearance became more important, celery root fell out of favor.
- Making a comeback now because of American’s strong interest in eating locally and seasonally.
- Crisp texture with an intense celery flavor. This makes it perfect as a vegetable as well as a seasoning.
- May be eaten raw or cooked.
- High in Vitamin C, phosphorous, and potassium.
- Soak the root in warm water to loosen soil in crevices, and then scrub with a vegetable brush.
- The exterior may also be peeled with a sharp knife.
- Peeled celeriac will darken when exposed to the air. Either toss with lemon juice or keep peeled slices in water.
- Related to the turnip and believed to be a hybrid of turnip and cabbage.
- Among the first vegetables grown by the colonists in America because these sturdy roots helped break up the poor untilled soil.
- They were eaten in abundance after World War II, and as a result they had fallen out of favor in America and Europe.
- Returning to our markets because of the strong interest in eating locally and seasonally.
- High in Vitamins A and C, and some minerals, especially calcium.
- In the cruciferous family because it is a hybrid of cabbage and turnip thus believed to be effective in preventing cancer.
- Scrub rutabaga with a vegetable brush to remove soil.
- For the most nutrition, do not peel, unless it has been commercially waxed.
- Can be eaten raw or cooked.
- An important vegetable because it was a reliable storage crop.
- Though used globally in the past, it has often been joked about. In Europe, turnips were the vegetable of choice to throw at someone as an insult.
- It is making a comeback because of its storability, nutrition, and versatility.
- Has a combination of sharp and sweet flavor.
- Good source of Vitamin C (especially eaten raw), potassium, and calcium.
- Are in the family of cruciferous vegetables believed to prevent cancer.
- Scrub with a vegetable brush. It’s not necessary to peel the turnip – simply peel away bruised areas.
Here is one of my favorite recipes using these tasty roots. It’s from the cookbook, Potager, Fresh Garden Cooking in the French Style, by Georgeanne Brennan.
FYI: a Potager is a kitchen garden. In the French country tradition, beautiful meals were created from the fresh, seasonal, simple ingredients from the potager. It’s like our farm-to-table eating style.
Oven-Roasted Chips of Winter Roots
Celery root, parsnip, rutabaga, turnip, and fennel all have distinctly different tastes and textures. Roasting brings out the flavor of each, and using them in combination is a simple way to bring a wide range of tastes to the plate. Parsnips are dense, rich, and sweet, while celery roots are full of the sharp, pungent taste of home-grown celery. Dark orange rutabagas have a strong taste of the earth, and turnips possess a faint mustard taste. Licorice-flavored fennel isn’t a proper root at all, but it fits right in with the other roots in this recipe. Use this mix of roots as a change from roasted potatoes.
1 large turnip
1 large rutabaga
1 large or 2 medium-sized fennel bulbs
1 celery root
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Trim the parsnips and peel them. Cut them lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices.
Peel the turnip and rutabaga. Cut them into quarters and then into ¼-inch-thick slices.
Trim away the top of the fennel bulb(s) and remove any brown or tough outer layers.
Cut the bulb(s) in half lengthwise and then into slices ¼ inch thick.
Peel the celery root and cut it in the same manner as the fennel.
Put all of the vegetables in a bowl with the olive oil.
Toss the vegetables to coat them lightly with the oil.
Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the vegetables evenly on a baking sheet large enough to hold them in a single layer. (If you want crispy veggies, make sure the veggies don’t overlap. If you crowd the veggies, they will still be tasty, but you will end up with veggies that are more steamed than roasted.)
Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the vegetable slices and cook until slightly crisped and tender, 5 to 7 minutes longer.
We had some leftover roasted veggies, so the next day for lunch I made a sandwich of cold, roasted root vegetables topped with arugula salad (also leftover from the night before) on toasted gluten-free bread. It was so good, and a great way to get more veggies into a meal and save money by eating leftovers.
So my friends, you now know what those hairy, bulbous and off-putting vegetables are that you’re seeing in the markets. They’re really not as scary as they look. Why not give one or all of them a try? Spring is coming soon, and since I know you’re starting to eat more locally and seasonally, better get those roots while they’re hair (I mean here.)
Until Next Time,