Root vegetables: A winter “jewel” in local markets that makes hearty meals to savor and enjoy

Take advantage of late winter vegetables for hearty meals and enriched vitamins.

In late winter we have a treasure that is found in the local markets. Vegetables that are easily found during this time of year are commonly referred to as “root vegetables.” Think about the carrots, turnips, beets, garlic, onions, parsnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables that are plentiful in local markets and vegetable aisles. To prepare and eat these delicate roots we can add them to stews, soups or mash and puree then to accompany our meats.

Consider the benefit these root vegetables add to our winter diets. Turnips can be blended with some mashed potatoes, adding a sweet flavor and plenty of vitamin C. Rutabagas, a big yellow root vegetable with a stronger, more peppery flavor than the mild-mannered turnip cousins, has more vitamin A and beta carotene. Winter does mysterious things to parsnips, as icy temperatures convert the starch in the root vegetable to sugar, it lends a subtle sweetness to the root. Also high in fiber, vitamin C and folate, parsnips make a nutrient-rich substitute to the potato when mashed or roasted as a side dish. Included in this array of vegtables we must remember beets and winter squash, which can complement our entrees and enrich our bodies with plentiful anti-oxidants and fiber.

Add some of these to your basket on your next shopping trip and simply prepare them by braising, grilling mashing or roasting them to bring out the sweetness and flavors that hide in the flesh of these cold weather crops. Roasting brings out the essential sweetness in root vegetables and creates a crispy brown exterior that’s always welcomed. Plus, it’s easy.

Here is a quick recipe to use from Michigan State University Extension:

  • Scrub vegetables clean; peel if you like. Cut vegetables into bite-size pieces.
  • Toss vegetables with enough olive oil, vegetable oil or melted butter to lightly but evenly coat them.
  • Put vegetables in a roasting or baking pan, sprinkle with salt. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper, chopped herbs or spices (such as cayenne) to taste.
  • Roast them in a hot oven (375 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit) until vegetables are tender and browned, about 30 minutes. You can roast vegetables with chicken or a meat; add them to the pan about 30 minutes before you expect the meat to be cooked

Enjoy a warm, hearty meal with root vegetables and savor a bountiful array of seasonal “jewels.”

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