January 2005

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Customer Comments

GM Report

Board Report

Health & Wellness News: A Basic Hemp Primer and Progress Report

Juice Bar & Bakery News: Maintaining Your Health through Juicing

Deli News: A Fiberiffic Feast

Produce News: Root Vegetables

Book News:
Fiber Titles

Specials Information

Recipes & Drink Recommendations

Ask the Midwife: Urinary Tract Infections

A Rough Guide to Dietary Fiber

Producer Profile: Maggie's Functional Organics

An Open Letter from the Northside Community

The 16th Annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming

Community Calendar

Produce News:
Root Vegetables

by Joe Disch, Produce Staff

Who’s afraid of ginger root? Well, what about beets, parsnips, and turnips? Often overlooked, the root crops are nature’s last attempt to nourish us before winter sets in. To celebrate the bounty, we’ve given them a lovely new home in the island cooler. You are encouraged to dismantle our lovely display and create even more beautiful soups, stews, and casseroles. Need some tips and background to get in the mood? Here’s a brief primer on some of Willy’s more popular and interesting roots.

Select firm, unblemished roots that aren’t too large. They will keep very well if stored in a cool, dark place. Some roots need to be peeled, such as celeriac and rutabaga. Others, like carrots and beets, should be scrubbed instead to retain more nutrients.

We are once again fortunate to have amazing (though orange and yellow) local organic carrots from Tipi Produce. In bulk, or by the 5-lb. bag, these are popular for cooking, munching, or juicing. Carrots are an excellent source of the deep yellow carotenoids that produce vitamin A. During the first five months of storage, carrots will actually increase their vitamin A content. Steaming makes this nutrient more easily available to the body, as heat breaks down the tough cellular walls that enclose it. Carrots are also a good source of magnesium, potassium, and vitamins B and C, as well as a form of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body. And yes, the greens are edible and nutritious too. Try steaming them, and serve with carrot or other vegetable chunks.

All beets are descended from the sea beet (B. maritima), a wild seashore plant native to Europe. We usually try to carry red, gold, and chioggia (red-and\-white-striped) varieties, with and without the beautiful greens. The greens are edible and delicious, and are in fact a cousin of chard. Beets are a good source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iodine, and many B vitamins. (The leaves are a good source of beta carotene.) Beets have long been thought of as a blood purifier. They become sweeter when stored, as their starches convert to sugars. When the tops are attached to any root vegetable, they leech out the nutrients, so cut off the tops before cooking. Cook the beets whole and then peel them; otherwise they will bleed all their color and nutrients into the water. The greens and the roots should be stored separately, as the greens are highly perishable, while the roots are not. Beets are excellent raw in salads, cooked in various dishes, or soups like borscht.

Turnips and Rutabagas
The turnip has been known in Europe since prehistoric times. Although it’s mainly used for its root, the leaves can also be eaten. Turnips can be round, cylindrical, or flattened; yellow or white; with or without a green or purple area near the top. Turnips are good mashed, roasted or used in casseroles.

Rutabagas are similar, except they are generally larger, rougher, and have yellower flesh. Excellent in soups and other recipes, rutabagas are high in vitamin C.

Parsnips and Parsley Root
A member of the parsley family, the parsnip has been used since the time of the Roman Empire. They are high in potassium, calcium and vitamin A. It was the staple root vegetable until the potato took over in the 16th century. Parsnips are still widely used, especially in the winter months as a roasted vegetable, as well as in soups and other dishes. A sweet, aromatic root that looks much like an off-white carrot. The flavor improves if allowed to stay in the ground until after the first frost. This causes the starches to convert to sugars. A fresh one will have a buttery-soft texture when cooked, but older parsnips will be fibrous and bitter. Overcooking makes them mushy. Parsnips are a good source of fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Parsley root looks very much like a parsnip, but has a stronger parsley flavor.

Celeriac and Salsify
Celeriac is the root of the celery plant, and has a similar flavor. Once you get past the knobby, gnarly peeling, you’ll find celeriac to be a delicious and useful ingredient in all sorts of dishes. It’s a great substitute when you’re making soup and celery stalks are unavailable.
Although salsify is sometimes called “oyster plant,” most people detect no such taste. The flavor is more like a nutty artichoke. Unlike most roots, salsify does not store well and should be used right away so it doesn’t discolor and spoil. When cutting, drop the pieces into acidulated water (with lemon or vinegar) until ready to cook. If precooked intact, the skin is much easier to remove. Salsify is high in fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins. It can be sliced and sautéed or baked, battered and fried, made into fritters, or added to soup, although boiling brings out the full flavor. The vegetable is sometimes served with a sauce, such as béchamel or vinaigrette.

Burdock, Sunchokes, and Horseradish
Burdock, like salsify, is a member of the daisy family. Its brown roots can grow up to four feet long. It is thought to have originated in China, and is popular in Hawaii. The bitter rind is generally removed.

The sunchoke, or Jerusalem artichoke, is nothing like the globe artichoke. It is actually another member of the daisy family and is closely related to the sunflower. The knobby white, yellow or pinkish tubers are crisp and sweet. They can be eaten raw in salads, baked, or used in soup.

Horseradish is not a true radish; but it is related to the turnip, cabbage, and mustard in the Cruciferae family. High in sulfur and potassium, the root is ground into a paste and used as a garnish. It is extremely sharp and hot. Heat destroys the pungency, so horseradish is always eaten raw or just barely heated for a mild sauce.

Roots aren’t the only thing to get excited about this month. Navel oranges are on sale for 99¢/lb. Leeks are also on special, for $1.99/lb. And no, we didn’t leave out roots entirely... “Baby” carrots are just $1.49 for 1 lb., or $2.99 for 2 lbs.