Winter’s Bounty – Obscure Root Vegetables
Aside from the usual root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic that you see in the produce section and farmers markets, come the winter months, you will also likely see a number of “unusual” and “obscure” vegetables that are guaranteed to add some flavor, color and texture to your winter dishes should you be bold enough to take them home and experiment with them in your kitchen.
While spring is not far away, we felt this was a great opportunity for you to expand your culinary repertoire, AND stick to eating seasonally, with the wonderful winter bounty available from your local farmers.
Like most winter vegetables, these “strange” root vegetables are all deliciously sweet when harvested after the first frost. They are all great storage vegetables. Refer to this pdf for great tips on how to store your fresh fruit and vegetables, to ensure optimal nutrition and shelf-life.
Always, when considering your own health, that of your family and that of Mama Earth, purchase your vegetables organically and locally if you can, leave the skins on and eat the leaves (that’s where a large portion of the micronutrients are)!
Some of my favorite winter root vegetables:
Turnip Brassica rapa
Turnips are actually close relatives to radishes and arugula. Like radishes, they have a mild to strong “bite” dependent on size and age. Small turnips are a great addition to a salad when used similarly to a radish, while the larger ones make a great addition to a roasted vegetable dish, soup or puree. When selecting turnips, look for firm, creamy-looking bulbs with a violet-hued ring around the top. Smaller turnips may not have the violet color and will look somewhat like a white radish. The turnip greens are often removed in winter months, but in fall and spring you likely will find them with the greens still attached. DO NOT throw these away. They are excellent, nutrient-dense greens that you can add to your weekly dishes. Turnip root is high in vitamin C. The turnip greens are a good source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium and lutein.
Purely Primal – Coconut Creamed Turnip Greens
Jicama (Mexican Yam, Mexican Turnip, Yam Bean) Pachyrhizus erosus
Jicama is the tuber of a native Mexican vine. It has the uniquely sweet crunch much like a water chestnut, lending itself well to raw dishes such as salads, salsas and vegetable platters. It can be cooked and seasoned like any other root vegetable, though you will often find it paired with hotter spices and Mexican or Asian cuisine. Three ounces of Jicama has about 7 grams of carbohydrates, mostly in the form of fiber (2 grams) and prebiotic sugars known as oligofructose inulin (or FOS). It is 86-90% water and contains vitamins C, A and B, along with calcium and phosphorus. Jicama is a round, somewhat flat ball and looks much like a potato. They can often grow quite large. Those tubers larger than grapefruit-size, often have started to convert sugars into starches and make the root a bit more woody.
(SW)EAT Exercise and Nutrition – Jicama Hashbrowns
Gone Raw – Raw Jicama Fries
Jen’s Gone Paleo – Jicama Salad w/Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
Rutabaga (Swedes, Swedish Turnip) Brassica napus
Rutabagas are round and waxy with yellowish flesh and ridges around the neck. A rutabaga has a soft sweetness and flavor that is reminiscent of both cabbage and turnip, of which it is said to have been conceived. Rutabagas are good raw, julienned and served with dip, grated into a coleslaw or any other type of salad. When cooked the yellow flesh turns orange. They are fantastic roasted, steamed, stir-fried, pureed or stewed. Add them to stews and soups. Bake them in the oven as chips or fries. Go ahead, just try them!
“Fish and Chips” from Fast Paleo – Bacon Wrapped Halibut over Rutabaga Chips
Brooklyn Paleo – Roasted Vegetable Salad with Anchovy-Parsley Pesto
Parsnips Pastinaca sativa
Parsnips resemble carrots, but are muddled white in color. They have a buttery, sweet, slightly tangy flavor when cooked. In order to enjoy a nice rich flavor, make sure the parsnips have gone through one good frost. Nutritionally, parsnips are low in calories, about 130 calories in one 9″ in length. They are richer in nutrients than carrots; especially rich in potassium, folic acid and calcium, vitamin A and C. Parsnips also contribute vitamins B1, B2, B3, iron, and zinc. Parsnips have a high sugar and starch content and contain more fiber then most other vegetables. Parsnips can be roasted, boiled, sauteed and steamed. Really, anything you can do with a potato, you can do with a parsnip. No need to peel them, just give them a good scrub and you’re on your way.
Nom Nom Paleo Cauliflower, Carrot and Parsnip Puree
Celeriac (celery root) Apium graveolens
Also known as celery root or knob celery, this root vegetable is not something that you choose for it’s looks. Yet underneath that gnarled, ugly exterior is a beautiful white flesh that has a milder, sweeter flavor than that of celery. Unlike many other root vegetables that are high in starches, celeriac is only about 5-6% starch by weight. It contains only 30 calories per half cup, no fat, and is a great source of fiber. When selecting fresh celeriac, choose one of small to medium size that are nice and firm to the touch. Look to see that the greens are not wilted. Celeriac is great when grated as a raw salad (see recipe below), julienned and baked in the oven like a french fry, roasted with other root vegetables, chopped up in a hearty soup, or served as a puree alongside a nice cut of meat and luscious greens.
BBC – Pot Roast Loin of Pork with Celeriac, Shallots and Pancetta
Green Celeriac Salad with Lemon and Capers (GF-Paleo)
from the Kitchen of Big Sister serves 4
- 1 large celeriac (celery root), peeled and grated
- 1 large lemon (juice and zest)
- 1/4 cup capers, drained
- fresh ground pepper and sea salt, to taste
- 1 large handful arugula, sliced thin
- 1 large handful parsley, sliced thin
- 1 handful fresh roasted pecans (optional: lightly crushed or chopped)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp. raw coconut vinegar
- 1 tsp. raw honey
Peel celeriac and grate. Sprinkle a tablespoon of lemon juice over the grated celeriac mixture to prevent the celeriac from browning. Stir well to coat. Lightly season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Whisk the remaining lemon juice and zest with the oil, honey and vinegar. Toss with the celeriac, capers, arugula, parsley, and pecans to coat. Taste and adjust. Serve and Enjoy!
January Health Challenge – Go to your local farmer’s market or grocer and pick up one of these obcure vegetables, one that you’ve never tried before. Make one of the recipes provided or create your own. We’d love to hear what you try!