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The Root of the Matter

 

Root vegetables are plants prized for their edible roots or stems. They include turnips, beets, radishes, carrots, rutabagas, salsify, parsnips, and

 

Root vegetables are plants prized for their edible roots or stems. They include turnips, beets, radishes, carrots, rutabagas, salsify, parsnips, and celery root to name a few.

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Tubers, (potatoes or yams), and rhizomes (ginger), are technically underground stems, but for nomenclatural simplicity they are often subsumed under the rubric of root vegetables since they're also subterranean.

Thanks to modern production methods and importation of produce from foreign countries, most root vegetables are available year round.

However, their peak season is the fall and in years past many were only available at that time. But there's a method to nature's madness. Root vegetables can be stored for extended periods of time.

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Thus, their autumnal arrival ensured a reliable food supply for the winter. Ages ago, people had root cellars to house their underground jewels through the cold months.

When selecting root vegetables pick those that are firm, heavy for their size, and free of blemishes and soft spots. If the greens are attached, as with carrots or beets, they should be fresh, stout, and bright green.

Remove the greens before storage since they sap moisture and vitamins from the root. Store root vegetables in a dark, cool place. For extended storage they can be placed in the refrigerator. Rutabagas and turnips also prefer higher humidity.

One of the most common ways of cooking root vegetables is by boiling. Boiling however, leeches flavor compounds, not to mention nutrients from the vegetable.

Nevertheless, it suffices as a quick and efficient method, particularly for making purees. Why limit yourself to mashed potatoes?

Simply substitute turnips, carrots, or rutabagas for the potatoes in your favorite recipe.

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PARSNIP PUREE

ROASTED RUTABAGAS & CARROTS

Roasting is one of the best cooking methods for optimizing root vegetables' flavor. Unlike boiling, where water dilutes some of the vegetable's flavor, roasting intensifies it.

ROASTED BEET & GOAT CHEESE SALAD

SAUTEED CELERY ROOT

All root vegetables can be sautéed. However, because of their density they must be cut into thin slices or a small dice. If not, the exteriors will burn before the center is cooked.

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