Getting to the Root of the Matter

Root vegetables are often under-appreciated for both their culinary versatility and nutrient density.  Most are widely available, inexpensive, easy to prepare, and have longer than normal storage times – all reasons to keep them on hand.  Because root vegetables spend much of their time underground, they accumulate health-promoting minerals from the soil.  Also, many are rich in complex carbohydrates that can help with satiety and curb cravings.

Follow this guide for getting the most of this season’s wonders down under:

Carrot and Parsnip: While these root vegetables are close cousins, they offer different flavors and nutrients.  Carrots are sweet and mild and loaded with beta-carotene. Parsnips offer more fragrance and pungency and are packed with potassium and folate, two nutrients important for cardiovascular health.  We love to combine them to create colorful, balanced dishes.  Both do well simply roasted with herbs or in soups like this one:  Roasted Carrot, Parsnip, and Ginger Soup.

Turmeric and Ginger: Both turmeric and ginger have been studied for there disease-fighting properties and ability to reduce inflammation.  Turmeric is easily recognized by the signature golden color it imparts to recipes and its somewhat bitter flavor, while ginger offers a bright, spicy experience. Both roots can be found fresh and dried. We love them together in this Peppered Turmeric Ginger Smoothie.

Sweet Potato and Yam:  Most of what we identify as “yams” are actually sweet potatoes.  True yams have a rough exterior and relatively colorless interior. Sweet potatoes come in a variety of colors, from deep orange and yellow, to purple.  Both root vegetables last quite a long time when kept in a cool, dry place, making them kitchen staples. Try adding them to sheet pan dinners.

Beets: They stand alone here as the edible root of a class of leafy green vegetables that also includes Swiss chard and spinach.  Beets come in a variety of colors and contain betalains, compounds important to the body’s detoxification process.  While the leaves of both chard and beets contain betalains, they are most concentrated in the root.  To avoid a mess in your kitchen, simply trim and wash beets, wrap them in foil and roast at 400°F until a knife inserts easily.  Using a paper towel, rub off the skin and dice. Beets can be stored in the refrigerator and added to salads during the week like we did here with this Citrus Beet Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette.

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