As we move through the fall season, descending into the darkness of winter, the root vegetables start to shine again. But some roots are far more prominent that others. In fact, there is almost an inverse pyramid of root vegetables where most people eat across the base with a certain amount of regularity, moving towards the top infrequently, if at all.
The base of the root pyramid is occupied by potatoes. In a number of different forms, (red, yellow, russet, fingerling, etc.) this is about as adventurous as many people get with “variety” in their vegetable consumption. While potatoes are a fantastic way to carry other flavours, they are not the most nutritious of the root vegetables, by far.
The yam is still fairly common in most grocery stores, sits beside the potato and occupies a fair amount of shelf space. But, is only a distant relative of the potato, not a member of the nightshade family so the green tops can be eaten. These orange coloured roots have 3 times the fibre of potatoes, not to mention the many other micronutrients and vitamins.
Sweet in flavor and reminiscent of yams are the all-star carrots. Still fairly popular, but not nearly as abundant as potatoes. A basic component of the popular French trifecta mise en place, (everything in its place) carrots, onions and celery, which begin most soups, stews, etc. Every kitchen probably has a bag of carrots rolling around the crisper drawer. They keep for a long time, but fresh, young carrots are a delightful taste sensation, straight from the warm garden. Twice the fibre of potatoes with a fraction of carbohydrates, carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and also contain vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium.
Onions, the cooking staple for many recipes. Multiple varieties are on offer at the typical grocer, including some of the larger, sweeter types. But most people do not have a habit of showcasing onions as the main ingredient. Onions are loaded with vitamins and phytochemcials. They have a long list of health benefits and for this reason alone, should be used to start recipes, as the French do. Onions naturally combine with garlic and add a flavor profile which is very pleasing, (spice without too much heat).
Beets are probably next in availability and popularity. Like carrots in terms of fibre and carbohydrate counts, beets provide many other health benefits to humans. While that may be true, dealing with the intensity of the red coloured beet juice can be a challenge in the kitchen. It stains everything. That may be a little too much for people. I like to serve beets as the star of their own show.
Sitting at the top of pyramid for outstanding health benefits, lots of fibre and super low carbohydrates are turnips, rutabagas and parsnips. I don’t know why these 3 are not more popular. I think they are great, but I suppose their taste is so much stronger than potatoes that it can be off-putting. I find their strength in flavour to be their value. They don’t need a whole lot of anything else to make them shine.
Here is a nice way to start the day with a healthy dose of nutrient, vitamin and fibre rich vegetables. I divided the recipe into 2 trays. Cooking the second while we enjoyed eating breakfast. This recipe would be nice as a taco filling, or a base for other toppings of fish, chicken, etc. I would also add it to a salad, so it is a good idea to make both trays and have the extra’s in the fridge.
Roasted Root Vegetable Hash
- 4 large carrots
- 1 medium rutabaga
- 2 small turnips
- 3 large parsnips
- 1 medium onion
- fresh rosemary
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
Peel and chop the roots into bite sized pieces. Lightly coat with olive oil, dust with spices to taste. Roast at 400 F for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and soft to the bite.
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