Photos by By Simply M Photography
F all is officially in the air, and while it’s hard to say goodbye to the fresh flavors of summer, autumn ushers in a wealth of healthy and tasty seasonal foods all its own. Among the most bountiful fall produce options are root vegetables, some of which may be familiar (think carrots and sweet potatoes), while others are probably more of a diversion from your usual fall family menu (rutabagas or parsnips, anyone?). Among the root vegetables plentiful in both CSAs and groceries in the fall and winter: turnips, beets, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery root, parsnips, rutabagas, and radishes.
The two most common, and most widely used, preparation methods for root vegetables are roasting and mashing. Roasting tends to bring out more of the vegetables’ sweetness and can be done easily in the oven with a little olive oil, black pepper, and either fresh or dried herbs. Mashed root vegetables also make a tasty side dish for grilled, roasted, and broiled meats. Consider adding celery root or rutabagas to your mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes for a unique twist on the traditional. Although roasting and mashing tend to be the most commonplace, there’s a host of ways to dress up root vegetables and incorporate them into your diet. Try making a fresh salad with pickled beets and shredded carrots, adding sweet potatoes to soups and stews, or even creating a pasta dish incorporating root vegetables like the one outlined below.
Not only are root vegetables in season, cost effective, and a tasty comfort food, there’s another important reason these earthy gems should be gracing your table this fall: Root vegetables are a great way to introduce nutritional complexity into your family’s diet by adding important phytonutrients that are highly beneficial to overall health and wellness. Although each vegetable houses its own set of benefits, there are three important properties that the entire family of root vegetables adds to your diet:
Root vegetables contain a good bit of fiber, particularly beneficial to the digestive tract and cardiovascular health.
This family of earthy vegetables also contains important antioxidants that prevent diseases, like certain types of cancers, and ward off disease, even common winter colds and flu.
Root vegetables also contain necessary B-complex vitamins, which add energy and boost the immune system, both important properties for the fall and winter months. Individual root vegetables contain special properties of their own, too. Beets, for example, provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. We also know that orange-colored root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes include large amounts of beta-carotene, which is essential for healthy eyes, bones, and immune systems. In addition to beta-carotene, sweet potatoes offer high levels of inulin, a type of fiber with benefits including keeping the colon healthy and reducing blood sugar levels. Radishes, similarly, have strong detoxifying properties.
Aside from their varied health benefits, another advantage of root vegetables is their storage life. These versatile veggies can be stored for months on end, allowing you to buy them when they’re at their peak and enjoy them all through fall and winter (and even into spring). Each root vegetable will have unique storage techniques recommended for it specifically, but here are a few general guidelines to keep in mind: