Root of the Matter
December 2nd, 2011 - By Therese Madden
Root cellars may be a thing of the past, but if you are trying to eat locally these days the advice is to dig into root vegetables. With plenty of phytonutrients and complex carbohydrates root vegetables can be nutritious as well as a hearty and warming addition to winter menus.
It's Winter time and the pickings are slim. Maybe you've already tried squash six ways and are ready to move beyond the kale. So why not dig deeper, and give root vegetables another chance. There are plenty of options, the Fair Food Farm Stand in the Reading Terminal sells local fresh produce, and here's what they have in the way of roots. "We have Jerusalem artichokes, celery root, radishes, turnips, parsnips, and carrots, beets…"
Think about all those gnarled looking vegetables. They're literally the roots of the plant, hidden deep in the dirt for so long, but come this time of year, they're ready to be cleaned up for the dinner table. "When you really think about what a root vegetables is, it's the base, it's the root, it's the foundation." Rich Landau is the Chef at Vedge Restaurant in Philadelphia. Going along with this train of thought, he uses these "foundation vegetables" for the base of one of winter's most beloved foods. Soup! "I love to use root vegetables for stock in that sense. They make the most beautifully, rich, wonderful stock. Carrots, parsnips, celery root, if you make a stock out of those three vegetables you will have an amazing foundation for your sauces and your soups."
For those who are weary about making a homemade stock, this method does sound pretty simple. "Just take some onions and brown them in just a tiny bit of olive oil with some parsnips carrots and celery root. And once they brown a little bit just add water, just enough to cover the vegetables and simmer them for about an hour. Strain them out, and you have the most delicious stock." But, what about eating a rainbow? Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Aren't root vegetables more akin to earth tones?
“Well, some of them are very colorful, beets are colorful, sweet potatoes are colorful, carrots are colorful." True. Nyree Dardarian is a Registered Dietician and instructor at Drexel University. She says even the paler root vegetables, like turnips and parsnips are really good for you. "It's still full of fiber, it's a great source of complex carbohydrates, which is a great energy source. The fiber fills you up, it keeps you feeling fuller longer, which may lead you to not reach for something else later in the day. So, it can be an aid for weight loss." These versatile vegetables are also good roasted, mashed, even in a simple hash. Of course, if there's no time to cook, there's always the vitamin rich, and portable member of the root family.