getting to the root of root veggies

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If you’re trying to eat more locally-grown produce, root veggies are a must in the Maritimes. We’re very good at growing these hearty, starchy veggies, but a lot of us struggle with creative tasty ways to use them. Not to worry! I’ve got some great tips for storage, preparation and cooking that will help you make root vegetables a favourite in your family’s cold-weather diet.

What is a root veggie?

A root veggie is just that: a plant’s root that we eat as a vegetable. The root has a special function: It stores the energy for the leafy plant above ground, and as such is high in complex carbohydrates, and a good source of energy for us humans. Root veggies are also fibre, nutrient and mineral-dense, and often high in vitamin C and or beta-carotene.

What are our local root veggies?

Local root veggies include, but are not limited to: carrots, beets, turnip, parsnip, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celeriac, and fennel. Another subset of root veggies is the “bulb” group, which includes onions, shallots and garlic.

How do you store root veggies?

Root veggies are generally best stored in a cool, dark place, and many do well in the crisper section of the fridge for about week. Some will keep in a cool pantry or cellar for a month or so.

A couple of tips: If you are eating the root greens (for example beet greens), consume them right away and store the root for later, as they don’t keep as well. For a quick side dish, saute the greens in a little olive oil and garlic and a splash of low-sodium tamari or soy sauce. If you plan on eating the root within a few days of bringing it into your kitchen, don’t refrigerate it, as the cold will actually decrease its sweetness.

What are the best ways to prepare & use root veggies?

Roasting: This is the simplest way to cook up just about any root veg, or better yet, a random assortment of root veggies. Peel and cube the veggies (making sure to keep the pieces about the same size, to ensure consistent cooking time), and include some garlic cloves and onion or shallot chunks in the mix for flavour. Melt a teaspoon or two of coconut oil, then toss the veggies with it to coat. Add salt, pepper & herbs if desired, and roast at 400F until tender, about 45-60 minutes. I usually stir the mixture once or twice during cooking to crisp the edges up nicely. You can serve as it or toss with a little balsamic vinegar and/or grated lemon rind before serving.

Soups: Root veggies make great additions to most soups. Cube them and toss them in the broth until tender, or cook them in stock with herbs and puree to make a healthy “creamy” soup. The ugliest, most-unappealing of root veggies make the most delicious soups: Try my Celery Root Bisque recipe if you don’t believe me!

Shredded or grated root veggies can be used in a few different ways:

  • raw in a coleslaw in the place of carrot or cabbage;
  • mixed with a little egg and ground oats or bread crumbs and formed into patties for quick hash browns;
  • steamed over rice with a sauce to top it off (try the Karmic Buddha Bowl sauce in my cookbook, Real Food for Real Families!)
  • Mashed: Almost all veggies can be mashed with a little olive oil or butter and salt & pepper for a quick side, or combined and mashed for a unique taste ( some good pairings are turnip and carrot, or celery root and potato).
    What are you waiting for? Roundup your roots and get cookin’!

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