Winter doesn’t have to mean an end to nutritious, fresh produce.
While summer is the most bountiful season, nature provides us with excellent sources of nutrients year-round.
In winter, it’s time to turn to the many benefits of root vegetables, perfectly suited to grow well in cold temperatures, to be stored for many months and to be enjoyed throughout the coldest season of the year.
Versatile roots offer a wide array of flavors in packages that are light on calories.
Root vegetables transform wonderfully into warm, hearty and healthy comfort food dishes, nearly every root vegetable is delicious mashed or roasted in the oven with butter or olive oil and herbs, but those aren’t the only ways to enjoy them.
Expanding your knowledge of the varieties can help add flavor and nutritional variety to your cold-weather diet.
Try raw, grated celery roots or carrots alongside roasted meats or pickled beets in winter salads.
Mix rutabaga or parsnip into your basic mashed potatoes, or add sweet potatoes to your favorite stew.
Among the root vegetable bounty you may find gems you’ve never before had the pleasure of tasting.
Most root-vegetables share some nutritional qualities, including a high amount of fiber.
Fiber is an essential way to keep digestive systems running smoothly, remove toxins from our bodies and manage weight, but most North Americans don’t get enough fiber in their diets.
Researchers are beginning to discover that not all fiber is alike, and believe that many root vegetables have a type of fiber that is particularly good for our digestive tracts and cardiovascular health.
And they all have high levels of antioxidants, which can help the body prevent diseases such as cancer.
Many are also good sources of B-complex vitamins (particularly useful during winter’s long days because of their ability to enhance energy levels and improve immunity) and other nutrients including vitamins-C and K, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.
Most also offer significant levels of potassium, a vital nutrient for proper functioning of the brain, heart and muscles.
But some others offer unique nutritional benefits, as well.
Beets, for example, are one of few sources of betalains, which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support.
And deep orange root-vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes include large amounts of beta-carotene, which is essential for healthy eyes, bones and immune systems, and thought to be especially important for children.
Eating a variety of root vegetables can bring uncommon nutritional elements to your diet.
Roasting them intensifies their flavor.
The dry heat slowly softens them while releasing some of their moisture; it also caramelizes their natural sugars and gives the vegetables crunchy surfaces that contrast so nicely with their tender interiors.
What could possibly look or taste more delicious alongside roast poultry or meats?
The secret to successful roasted vegetables begins with buying them.
Seek out good-quality specimens without blemishes or soft spots.
I especially like to look in farmers' markets and well-stocked food stores for organic vegetables, which are more likely to give you the best flavor without traces of harmful chemicals.
At home, prepare the vegetables in a way that gives you pieces of equal size, so they'll cook evenly.
Small or baby vegetables may be just trimmed and left whole, while larger ones may need halving, quartering, or slicing, depending on their size and shape.
The variety of colors and shapes will look like a cornucopia of the harvest season.
Then, all you have to do is season them with salt and pepper and drizzle them with olive oil in the baking dish.
We also like to add a few sprigs of herbs to scent them, along with whole unpeeled garlic cloves, which turn as soft as butter, rich and sweet.
(Squeezed from their skins, the roast garlic may be dabbed on bites of the other vegetables or your holiday roast, or smeared onto pieces of crusty bread.)
Storing Root Vegetables
One advantage of a reliance on root vegetables is their ability to store for months on end, allowing you to buy them when prices are best.
A few general rules almost always apply: Store root vegetables in a cool, dark, moist spot such as your basement or a corner of the garage; select smooth, firm, brightly colored roots without cracks or soft spots; and trim off greens before storing (keep in mind that many root vegetables have edible greens).
Finally, eat your smallest vegetables first as they’ll go soft the soonest.
Finally, be patient.
Slow cooking at a not-too-high temperature ensures that the vegetables reach perfect tenderness just as their surfaces turn brown and crusty.
You'll find the results so irresistible that the thought of a green vegetable won't even cross your mind.
Roasted Root Vegetables with Chermoula
Here, a medley of root-vegetables and winter squash are roasted with chermoula (also spelled charmoula), a quintessential Moroccan spice combination.
(Any combination of root-vegetables will work in this dish; start with about 12 c. of peeled vegetable pieces.)
Be sure to peel turnips well; their skin is thicker and more fibrous than other root-vegetables.
Makes 6 servings, about 1 1/4 c. each
Total Time: 1 1/4 hours
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. paprika, preferably sweet Hungarian
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
1 med. baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 med. sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 med. turnip, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 med. rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 med. carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 oz. peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch chunks (see Shopping Tip)
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Place oil, garlic, paprika, cumin and sea salt in a food processor or blender and pulse or blend until smooth.
3. Place potato, sweet potato, turnip, rutabaga, carrots and squash in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate the pieces in a single layer.
Toss with the spiced oil mixture until well combined.
4. Roast the vegetables, stirring once or twice, until tender, 45 to 50 minutes.
Present the root-vegetables in their baking dish or transfer them to a heated platter, garnishing with freshly chopped parsley or chives just before serving.
This is a wonderful roasted root-vegetables accompaniment for any and all occasions!
Calories - 235
Carbohydrates - 35 g.
Fat - 10 g.
Saturated Fat - 1 g.
Monounsaturated Fat - 7 g.
Protein - 4 g.
Cholesterol - 0 g.
Dietary Fiber - 7 g.
Potassium - 844 mg.
Sodium - 461 mg.
Nutrition Bonus ~ Vitamin-A (200 daily value), Vitamin-C (80 dv), Potassium (24 dv).
Shopping Tip: Look for already peeled, seeded and quartered butternut squash in the prepared-vegetable section of the produce department.Tweet
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