What the heck do I do with: Root vegetables?!

Our third “What the heck do I do with ___?!” series installment is all about root vegetables. Everything you need to know to start incorporating root veggies into your diet is below, including nutrition and variety information, how to select, store and prepare, and links to several great recipes. Be sure to share any of your greens questions, comments and recipes below, in the comments!

Nutrition: Exact nutritional values depend on the variety (you can visit www.nutritiondata.com for specific information), so we discuss nutrition generally here. One cup of cooked celeriac, radish or turnip has 25-42 calories, while beets, burdock, parsnip or rutabaga has 66-110 calories. Each of the common varieties listed below are all very low in saturated fat and cholesterol; all but burdock root are a good or very good source of dietary fiber; beets, radish, rutabaga and turnip have higher sugar contents. Root vegetables function as the energy storage organ in a plant, and therefore are nutrient dense. Common nutrients include folate, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B6 and C.

Common varieties: Besides carrots and potatoes, common varieties include beets, burdock root, celeriac (celery root), daikon radish, parsnip, rutabaga, and turnip.

Selecting: Although their growing seasons can peak from June through October, root vegetables are mostly available year-round. When choosing your root veggies, look for ones that are firm. Choose beets, celeriac, rutabaga, and turnips that are heavy for their size; parsnips should be small and crisp; burdock and daikon radish should also be crisp.

Storing: Most root vegetables, with the exception of Daikon radish, store well up to two weeks. Like leafy greens, your root veggies should be kept unwashed, uncut and dry (or almost dry) until they’re ready for use. Remove greens from root vegetables (if applicable) and store in a crisper drawer or airtight container.

Preparing: Many nutrients and minerals in root vegetables are close to the surface, and therefore can be lost through peeling the skin. However, the skin of root vegetables can also act as a sponge, absorbing pesticides and chemicals used in the growing process. If your veggies are grown organically, we recommend that you simply wash with warm water, scrubbing with a brush if necessary, and refrain from peeling. If you’re not sure you’ll like the taste or texture, experiment with leaving the peels on, or try peeling only half of the vegetable. Exceptions include celeriac, whose knobby, thick and dirty skin will need to be peeled. If your veggies are conventionally grown and/or have been given a waxy coating by the produce company (usually turnips and rutabagas), then remove peels.

Root vegetables are wonderful, easy additions to soups and stews, especially celeriac, parsnip, rutabaga and turnip. Use them the same places you use carrots and potatoes; simply cut them into chunks and toss them in the pot. Sliced Daikon radish and burdock root work great in stir-fries.

Roasted root vegetables are a warming winter favorite. Cut 6-8 cups of turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes and/or carrots into 1-inch chunks, coat with a high-heat oil and your favorite herbs, then roast on a cookie sheet at 425-degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.

Mashed root vegetables are an easy dinner side dish. Steam 2-3 cups of celeriac, parsnip, rutabaga, and/or turnip until soft (usually 10-15 minutes), then blend, mash or process in a food processor with salt, pepper and herbs, to taste, adding liquid if needed. Try blending the vegetables with a bit of coconut oil and cinnamon or nutmeg for a slightly sweeter version.

Root vegetables can also be eaten raw, though this is where you’ll most likely taste the peel (it may add a slight bitterness); remember to experiment with peeling by removing only some of the skin. Try shredding root vegetables and adding them into a green salad. Cut them into matchsticks and toss in vinaigrette dressing with dried fruit and seeds or nuts. Grate root vegetables, and then dress them with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and celery seed for a coleslaw-type side dish.

As always, have fun with adding new vegetables to your diet. Root vegetables offer unique nutrition in a versatile and tasty package – the next time you’re shopping, think beyond carrots and potatoes! Be open to experimenting with the huge variety of flavors.

Recipes: Click on the names below to visit the recipe’s website.  Remember, many recipes will instruct you to peel root vegetables before use, though in most cases this is not necessary.

If you have any root vegetable tips, recipes, comments or questions to share, please do! Simply comment below.

Sources: Nutrition Data, www.nutritiondata.com; Root Vegetable List, http://www.buzzle.com/articles/root-vegetables-list.html; Cook’s Thesaurus, http://www.foodsubs.com/Roots.html; What’s Up with Root Vegetables, http://knol.google.com/.

>>> About this series: If there is a food (or group of foods) that you’ve been wondering about and wanting to try, but just aren’t sure where to start, please take the 30-second, totally anonymous survey athttp://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RMLMZ93, or email your thoughts to info@guidanceforgrowing.com. We are compiling responses for a recurring “What the heck do I do with ___?!” series, to appear in our newsletter and on our website.

One Response to “What the heck do I do with: Root vegetables?!”

  1. calvin frank says:

    I learned alot by reading your article. Keep up with good posts.

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