When it comes to versatility, root vegetables have the market cornered: you can roast ‘em, mash ‘em, grill ‘em, bake ‘em or boil ’em. You can run them through a juicer. You can add them to salads, or grains, or enjoy them on their own, whether you prefer a sweet or savoury taste.
Use Look Local Mississauga’s guide to root vegetables to help you incorporate this healthy, versatile and delicious group of foods into your everyday diet—and why not let it inspire you to add something new to your holiday table?
• Potatoes • Sweet Potatoes • Parsley Root • Beets • Parsnips • Turnips • Rutabagas • Carrots • Onions • Celeriac (Celery Root) • Garlic • Fennel • Horseradish • Jicama • Radishes • Turmeric • Ginger
Though each root vegetable has its own health benefits, as a group they also share many similar characteristics. Many contain high levels of antioxidants as well as abundant vitamins and minerals like Vitamins C, B, A and iron, providing them with disease-fighting, energy-boosting superpowers.
Beyond their nutritional value, root veggies are also incredibly versatile and store extremely well for months at a time, as long as they are stored in the correct conditions (more on this below).
“The beauty of root vegetables is how long they last,” explains Hillary Penn of Herridge’s Farm Fresh Market in Clarkson. “The cost is relatively low, especially when you buy in bulk, and they have so many uses that the value is very high for the price you pay.”
Additionally, many root vegetables have natural sugars that come out when roasted “low and slow”, which can add depth of flavour to a dish without the need for added sweeteners.
Another amazing benefit? Root veggies contains significant amounts of fibre, helping you feel full while aiding in a healthy digestive system. Adding them to a lunchtime salad or a grain dish can provide enough fibre to keep you full through the day.
While a root cellar certainly comes in handy for storing root vegetables, it isn’t a necessity—in fact, all you need is a cool, dark cupboard. The key is to ensure that those succulent veg won’t lose their moisture left sitting out in the open. The best solution is an open basket (something air can flow through) kept in a dark cupboard away from heat-producing appliances (think oven or dishwasher).
Sweet vs. Savoury
There are so many ways you can prepare root veggies, and their versatility means you can either go the sweet route or opt for a more savoury dish. Due to the natural sugars in sweet potatoes, onions, beets, carrots and parsnips, these veggies become wonderfully sweet when you roast them in the oven. Once out of the oven, you can add a balsamic vinegar glaze or a touch of honey to heighten the sweet taste.
On the flip side, so many root veggies taste delicious when prepared in a savoury way. Fennel is delicious when baked with a generous sprinkle of parmesan, olive oil and herbs. Jicama is a tasty treat eaten raw with a sprinkle of lime juice, chili powder and salt. Garlic is so easy to roast—just slice off the top of the full bulb, drizzle with olive oil, and broil until tender and golden. Perfection!
A Little Goes a Long Way
Horseradish, ginger and turmeric are three full-flavoured root veggies that can add a great “punch” to your dishes. All three provide powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can also aid digestion. These roots can be eaten raw, pickled, or dried and turned into a powder that can be used to flavour other dishes.
Radish is another strong-tasting root veggie that has a pungent, peppery taste. It’s a great addition to salads or sandwiches and can liven up a cheese or charcuterie plate.
At this time of year, with a bit of a chill in the air, it’s the perfect time to experiment with your root veggies by turning them into delicious soups. You can pair up different combinations—try sweet potato with horseradish, celeriac with onion, carrot and beet. Or why not combine a number of different root veggies in one soup? Think carrot, parsnip, celery root, turnip, rutabaga, potato, onion and garlic.
And What About the Tops?
Root veggies such as carrots, parsley root and beets often come with beautiful leafy green tops still attached. Hillary suggests getting creative with this part of the plant: “Instead of discarding these in your compost bin, try adding these fresh leaves into a blender smoothie, whiz them into a pesto, or finely dice to top off a soup or stew,” she says. “They add a fresh flavour and are also a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.”
Tips & Tricks from Herridge’s Farm Fresh Market
You can store full pieces of ginger root in the freezer without even peeling it—when your recipe calls for a small amount, simply grate the ginger into your dish, peel and all!
Many root veggies can be cooked in the microwave with just a small amount of water—a quick and healthy solution without having to turn on the oven.
Root vegetables make delicious chips! If you are willing to experiment, you can easily try making beet, yam or parsnip chips by following an online recipe.
by Ilana Clamp
Herridges Farm Fresh Market
Heatherlea Farm Shoppe