True to your Roots

Not every root vegetable is called a true root, but the Carrot, Beet, Rutabaga,Turnip, Parsnip are for two reasons. One, they grow underground. Two, they actually do what their name implies and channel sustenance and water from the earth to the plant. Root vegetables are packed with essential nutrients, and are easily stored for long periods of time. The root cellar, or less known "spring house" were precursors to the refrigerator, keeping winter/summer vegetables fresh underground or inside the cool bubbling water of a house built over a spring, before electricity and Freon coolants.  


Root vegetables are packed with essential nutrients, and are easily stored for long periods of time. The root cellar, or the lesser known "spring house" were precursors to the refrigerator, before electricity and freon coolants that kept winter/summer vegetables fresh underground or inside the cool bubbling water of a house built over a spring. Roots are often referred to as "winter keeping" plants whose DNA structures include a capacity for lengthy storage. Classified as biennials, they're plants and flowers that reseed a second-time-around with a peak growing season from autumn until spring.

It's not too early to start thinking about planting a small root garden this spring and harvesting the root vegetables in late fall and winter keeping them until the next planting season. Tips on growing root vegetables can be found at the University of Minnesota Gardening page on growing roots. Here's a guide for harvesting roots, storage options and even recipes. Evidently, when to harvest is an art similar to picking grapes in the art of wine making. 



Preparation for Storage

1.Roots sweeten and develop a tougher skin the longer they stay in the ground.

2.After the root hairs are pulled the plant will become dormant and most of the remaining hairs will dry and fall off easily. 

3.Never wash roots before you store them. Just cut off the tops right out in the garden. Leave about an inch of stem for beets, so they don't "bleed" in cooking.

4.Don't cut off the bottom end of the root before you put it in storage. This can cause rot.

5.Only wash roots just before using them.

6.Don't store roots that are damaged by insects or harvesting. Injuries are avenues of rotting that can spread to the other vegetables. Cut away bruising on roots and eat them right away.


Where to make a Root Cellar in your house

Once critical to the sustenance of families during the winter, root cellars were a common way to store food including perishable food like eggs, butter, cheese and milk throughout the year. Now you can use a plastic bag or paper box to store root vegetables. The one constant in wintering roots is to keep the temperature cool and consistent which makes the basement is the best location for maintaining a consistent temperature.

Containers for Wintering Roots

1.Trash Barrels
2.Plastic Bag with holes
3.Boxes lined with paper towels filled with sawdust or peat moss
4.Refrigerator Crisper Drawer
5.Buried metal garbage cans in the back yard with removable insulated top

Wintering Conditions

1. Winter storage requires circulating air
2. Ideal temperature of 33 degrees
3. Pack roots loosely and check periodically to remove roots that have rotted.
4. If roots freeze, remove them and use them right away.


They're most often cooked and used in soups or stews, with the exception of the carrot and beet. Remarkably, root vegetables retain the same amount of minerals as vegetable greens, 90 to 95 percent of all minerals. A root's nutritional values are diminished according to the particular nutrient, cooking temperature, cooking time and the amount of water used.

Nutritional Values

Carrot  88% water, 4.7% sugar, 2.6% protein, 1% ash, and 0.2% fat. Carrot dietary fiber comprises mostly cellulose, with smaller proportions of hemicellulose, lignin and starch. Free sugars in carrot include sucrose, glucose and fructose.The lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids characteristic of carrots are under study for their potential roles in vision and eye health.

Beet Beetroot is an excellent source of folate and a good source of manganese, and contains betaines which may function to reduce the concentration of homocysteines, a homolog of the naturally occurring amino acid cysteine.

Rutabaga Rutabaga contains significant amounts of vitamin C: 100 g contains 25 mg, which is 42% of the daily recommended dose.

Turnip The turnip's root is high in vitamin C. The green leaves of the turnip top ("turnip greens") are a good source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and calcium. Turnip greens are high in lutein (8.5 mg / 100 g).

Parsnip A typical 100 g parsnip contains 75 Calories (230 kJ) of energy. Most parsnip cultivars consist of about 80% water, 5% sugar, 1% protein, 0.3% fat and 5% dietary fiber. The parsnip is rich in vitamins and minerals and is particularly rich in potassium with 375 mg per 100 g. Several of the B-group vitamins are present but most of the vitamin C is lost in cooking. Since most of the vitamins and minerals are found close to the skin many will be lost unless the root is finely peeled or cooked whole. During frosty weather, part of the starch is converted to sugar and the root tastes sweeter.
The consumption of parsnips has potential health benefits. They contain anti-oxidants such as falcarinol, falcarindiol, panaxydiol and methyl-falcarindiol which have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. The dietary fiber in parsnips is partly of the soluble and partly the insoluble type and comprises cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.


Root Soup with Grilled Thai Peanut Chicken Strips


Ingredient List: Carrots, Parsnips, Rutabaga, Chicken, Soy Sauce, Thai Peanut Sauce

Vegetable Broth, Sliced Green Onion for garnish optional.

How to:

1. Slow cook roots in a vegetable broth, Soy Sauce and Thai Peanut Sauce. Measure to taste.

2. Grill a chicken breast in Soy Sauce and Thai Peanut sauce.

3. Serve in a bowl with broth, a generous portion of cooked roots and strips of chicken.

4. You can add chow mein noodles, sliced green onions or Wasabi peas to this soup.

Note: No cooking oil or butter used. 

Difficulty Level from one to ten, ten being the most difficult. Rating 2

Preparation requires 3 steps: slow cook roots, grill chicken, combine ingredients


Roots' Link Bank