Root Vegetables – Hearty Options for the End of Winter
Beets come in three main varieties–red, gold, and Chioggia. Beet skins tend to be a little bitter, so you should peel them before cooking, or boil them whole and peel after. Chioggia beets are variegated, with pink and white concentric stripes. They tend to be less sweet than red beets, but they don’t turn everything red when you cook them with other things. Gold beets also tend to be a bit milder than red, but all three taste similar. Peel, cube, boil until tender, drain, and toss with a little vinegar for a wonderful salad topper.
Parsnips are a long, tapered, tan root vegetable. They cook up soft, and have a nice mild carrot flavor. Try boiling with potatoes to add some depth to your mashed potatoes–2 parts potatoes to one part parsnips.
Rutabagas and turnips are very similar. Rutabagas are thought to be a cross between turnips and cabbage. They are tan and purple, and can be quite large. Unlike turnips, they don’t get tough and woody as they get larger. Both are mild and slightly radishy in flavor, but rutabagas tend to be sweeter. A classic application is to cream them–very much like mashed potatoes, but they should be mixed thinner, with more milk than you would use for potatoes, well salted and peppered, and served as a stand-alone side dish.
Celery root is to celery as beets are to chard–one plant has been bred for the leaves (or stalks), and one has been bred for the roots. Celery root has a delicate celery flavor, and is less dense than other root vegetables. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Try peeling and grating the root, then mixing with a sweet creamy vinaigrette and allowing it to marinate for a couple hours before serving. Great on its own, or toss with a salad.
Burdock root has a fairly strong earthy, somewhat metallic flavor. It is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine, where it is often pickled, added to soups, or grated into sauces and marinades. Thinly slice and add with other vegetables in a soup or stew. Burdock is also a valuable medicinal plant, mostly for its detoxifying properties.
Jerusalem artichokes are small, bulbous roots that most resemble a potato. Also known as sunchokes, they are mild, sweet, and crispy when raw, and will caramelize slightly when roasted. They contain an indigestible sugar that can upset some people’s stomachs in large quantities, so don’t eat a lot of them at first, especially raw. Try them in place of raw jicama in recipes.
There’s no reason to not enjoy more than one root at once; here are a couple of easy preparations:
Mixed root chips: Scrub and wash whatever roots you’d like to try, peel anything with a thick skin, and slice into ⅛ inch thick rounds, or as thin as you can. Meanwhile, bring a pan of high-smoke point oil up to medium-high heat, then fry on both sides until brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels, salting and peppering liberally before they cool.
Roasted roots: Scrub, wash and peel roots. Bring the oven up to 425 degrees. Chop the roots into about half-inch cubes, and toss with chopped onion, oil, salt, pepper, and any fresh or dry herbs you’d like to use. Paprika, parsley, minced garlic, and rosemary is a nice combination. Line a baking sheet with parchment, lay the veggies out in an even layer, and roast until everything is soft and beginning to caramelize. Turn vegetables halfway through roasting. A splash of good balsamic after you remove from the oven will elevate the dish. Enjoy!
By: Ben Goe, Produce Manager