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When is the last time you ate a turnip? A parsnip? A rutabaga? Maybe you’re not even sure what they look like. These root vegetables were a staple in the early American farmers’ diet, but today are rarely seen on American tables. In fact, most Americans rarely eat vegetables, and when they do they choose only a few, such as carrots, peas, tomatoes, and potatoes. I’m sure that I am talking to the majority that do eat vegetables with every meal, but maybe you could use some extra motivation.
Fresh Vegetables Can Be The Highlight Of Every Meal!
Most vegetables can be prepared and cooked in a short amount of time. Almost every vegetable that has been studied has been found to contain substances that benefit the heart and blood or counteract the formation of tumors. Fresh vegetables eaten with the right fats on a daily basis, are one of our best protections against coronary heart disease and cancer.
Eating In Season And Local Produce
Eating in season vegetables maximizes your nutritional intake. Eating produce grown locally and in season gives you the benefit of consuming vegetables picked at its peak of ripeness. Produce that is transported long distances is picked before it is ripe. Although it will ripen during transport, the nutritional value of produce comes through the stem. The vitamin and mineral content decreases each day the fruit or vegetable spends sitting in the truck or on the shelf. The flavor and texture of freshly harvested foods is also much better when purchased or grown locally.
There are many websites that will tell you what vegetables are in season in your location, but I like Epicurious’ version. Also, this book caught my attention and is now on my Amazon wish list: The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget.
Winter Root Vegetables
Here’s a list of what root vegetables are in season now.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Sweet potatoes
- Celeriac/Celery root
I want to focus on root vegetables especially the unpopular ones, such as rutabagas, turnips, and parsnips. They have many benefits and make a great Christmas side dish!
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More popular in Medieval times than today, parsnips gave way to carrots at our tables several centuries ago. The parsnip is sweeter than the carrot especially if left in the ground until after frost. Parsnips are rich in many micro-nutrients. They are an excellent source of potassium, folic acid, manganese and dietary fiber. Due to their folic acid content, they’re a good option for expectant mothers or women who are trying to conceive.
Parsnips are at their peak between December and February. Look for parsnips that are firm (just like a good carrot) and not overly large, because they can get woody and bitter when they get too big. They may be sold loose, although I usually find them in one-pound bags, similar to carrots.
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A Rutabaga is a cruciferous vegetable. It contains phytochemicals that remove carcinogens from the body and help the liver process toxins. Rutabaga is also a good source of antioxidants, which help prevent free radical damage to our cells and DNA. Rutabagas are especially high in potassium and three trace minerals. They also contain magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, B-vitamins, and are an excellent source of vitamin C, with one cup providing 53 percent of the recommended daily value.
Select rutabagas that are 3 to 5 inches in diameter—the smaller, the sweeter—and that feel firm, smooth, and heavy, with no cracks or soft spots.
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A turnip, like it’s cousin the rutabaga, does not test high in vitamins but are a very rich source of potent cancer-fighting substances called glucosinolates. Turnips were a staple food in American diets because of their keeping qualities. They could be stored over the winter in root cellars.
When selecting turnips, look for a firm and and blemish-free exterior with vibrant green tops, which are often removed and sold separately. Larger turnips tend to be woody, so try to select smaller ones.
Here is a recipe that includes all three of the above root vegetables. It makes a great vegetable dish for your Christmas meal!
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
- 1 pound rutabagas, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
- 1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
- 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan.
- Add the carrots and rutabagas and cook for 4 or 5 minutes.
- Add the turnips and parsnips and cook the vegetables until tender, about 4 or 5 mintues.
- Remove all the vegetables from the stock, place in a serving dish, and keep warm.
- Boil the chicken stock, uncovered, over high heat until reduced by about one third.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.
- Add parsley, salt, and pepper.
- Pour over warm vegetables and serve.