As the days grow shorter and the temperatures grow colder, you might think that the season for eating local Colorado produce has passed. But don’t be fooled. The arrival of winter marks the perfect time to dig in to colorful root vegetables!
While root vegetables come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, they do share a few things in common. All of these vegetables are grown underground and tend to be at their peak flavor and nutrition during the colder months of the year. This makes them an excellent ingredient to add to hearty fall and winter dishes.
Root vegetables fall into five different categories depending on whether they are a plant’s true root or if they are part of a plant’s stem.
The different types of root veggies are:
- Tap Roots: Carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, jicama, cassava
- Tuberous Roots: Sweet potatoes, yucca
- Tubers: Potatoes, yams, Jerusalem artichokes
- Bulbs: Garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, fennel
- Corms: Celery root, taro, water chestnut
Digging Deeper into Root Vegetable Nutrition
Root vegetables help support the rest of the plant by absorbing water and nutrients from the soil and storing energy for the plant to use later. This makes these veggies nutritional powerhouses rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some benefits are:
- Parsnips are a good source vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. Getting enough folate during pregnancy is important because it helps to prevent some birth defects.
- Beets contain antioxidant pigments that give them their red color and can reduce the risk of some cancers and diseases. Beets are also a great source of naturally occurring nitrates that support heart health. The body changes nitrates found in some plant foods into nitric oxide, which helps to improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure.
- Rutabagas are a great source of vitamin C, which helps support immune health. A medium rutabaga also has more than twice as much potassium as a medium banana.
Root veggies tend to be high in fiber and low in calories, and including root vegetables in meals can help support keeping a healthy weight and preventing chronic disease. Try choosing root vegetables of all different colors to get the full nutritional benefits!
Dishing Up Root Veggies
When it comes to ways that you can enjoy root vegetables, the sky really is the limit! Clean them well with a firm scrub brush under running water to remove surface contamination.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Roast bite-sized pieces of root veggies to bring out their natural sweetness.
- Braise root veggies in broth and seasonings for a flavorful vegetable side.
- Slice root veggies as thinly as possible and bake for a fun take on chips.
- Cook root veggies until tender and then puree with a touch of cream for a hearty soup.
- Grate raw root veggies, pat dry, and pan fry for colorful vegetable pancakes.
- Boil root veggies until tender and then mash with a bit of butter, milk, and seasoning.
When it comes to adding flavor, color, and a healthy dose of nutrients to winter meals, root vegetables really can’t be ‘beet’!
Do you have a favorite way to enjoy root vegetables? Let us know in the comments below!