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F eature Story

Digging in the dirt!

By Rachel Holder
Photo Photos by By Simply M Photography

What's up with root vegetables?

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.

quote 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...

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:

 1  Root vegetables contain a good bit of fiber, particularly beneficial to the digestive tract and cardiovascular health.
 2  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.
 3  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:

  • Always store root vegetables in a cool, dark, moist place, such a basement (or if a basement isn’t available, the dark corner of a garage will suffice).
  • Choose smooth, firm, brightly colored roots with no cracks or soft spots.
  • Trim off the greens before storing, but keep in mind that many root vegetables have edible greens that are good for you.
  • Smaller root vegetables go soft the soonest, so be sure to consume those first.

Recipes

Tortellini with Root Vegetables

Ingredients
3 medium beets
3 medium carrots
3 medium parsnips
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
3 tbsp. grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tbsp. fresh thyme
Pinch of salt
1 lb. fresh cheese tortellini

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Peel and cut beets, carrots, and parsnips into bite-sized cubes or slices. Place on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until fork tender.
3. In a large bowl, combine parmesan cheese, butter, thyme, and salt; set aside until needed.
4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add tortellini and boil according to package directions. When cooked, strain the tortellini from the water; reserve 1 tablespoon of pasta water. Add pasta and reserved water to the cheese and toss to coat. Gently fold in the roasted vegetables. Taste and add any additional salt or pepper if needed. Serve.

Shaved Golden Beet, Carrot, and Radish Salad with Coriander Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients
For the Dressing:
1 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. raw honey
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Shaved Salad:
4 small golden beets, peeled
4 medium carrots, peeled, cut in half
1 small bunch of radishes, trimmed and cleaned
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Instructions
1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl.
2. Thinly slice the beets, carrots, and radishes on a mandolin or in a food processor with a slicing disc.
3. Toss the sliced vegetables with the dressing to coat evenly. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, season to taste with additional salt and freshly ground pepper if desired, and serve.

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