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Food Facts: Root Vegetables

Original article By: Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough for WeightWatchers.com

Root Vegetables: Winter Mainstays That are Always in Season

Carrots, turnips, rutabagas, yucca and potatoes, the sweet potatoes and radishes. Welcome to the original “keeping” vegetables, the parts of the harvest that could be saved so that settlers and farmers could survive the winter months.

Even today, when the temperatures are cold, we think about root vegetables — maybe because so many go so well in comforting stews and soups, but maybe also because we remember our heritage, these roots that were once our lifelines in harsher times.

Facts About Root Vegetables:

Tips for Buying Root Vegetables:

Cooking with roots
Root vegetables have an amazing range in the kitchen — from salads to stews. Many can be eaten raw — like radishes and jicama. Others can be quickly steamed or blanched to enhance other raw vegetables in a salad — potatoes and celeriac work particularly well. And some root vegetables can stand up to long stewing or roasting — think rutabagas and turnips.

In fact, many roots run the full gamut. Carrots go from raw to long-stewed without breaking a sweat!

Because root vegetables are so stocked with sugars, they change flavors dramatically as they cook. Steamed carrots are more savory than raw ones; braised radishes, sweeter than raw.

Not all roots take forever on the stove. Radishes are done in minutes; shredded sweet potatoes can be cooked in minutes. In fact, shredding most of these roots will cause them to cook more quickly as more of the fibers and sugars come in contact quickly with the heat.

Consider this the culinary rule: the longer the braise or stew, the more flavor you need in the root to begin with. Celeriac, parsnips and carrots stand up to a three-hour pot roast. Potatoes, yucca, and sunchokes are milder — and easily overwhelmed in a complex braise. These root vegetables are better mashed on their own, a bed for chili, beef stew and chicken-skillet sautés.

 

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