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Root Vegetables: Warming Up the New Year

Root vegetables are a great way to to keep yourself warm and healthy during the cold winter months in Wisconsin. They’re extremely versatile; they can be roasted, mashed, souped, stewed, steamed, sautéed, puréed, stir-fried, juiced, and of course, deep-fried (yes, you can buy them in the chip aisle). They work well individually, or as a team! They’re affordable; they keep well; they’re full of good stuff, and they’re available locally at a time when most local veggies are long gone.

Supporting Local from the Ground Up
As previously stated, root vegetables like beets, turnips, parsnips, and carrots are a great way to incorporate locally grown vegetables into your diet throughout the winter months. Because they’re available year-round, they generally don’t stir up the enthusiasm seasonal-specific products do. What’s important to note about root vegetables is that they provide diversified local farms a means of extending their season. Even though nothing is growing in the fields, they’re able to generate income enabling them to sustain their business and keep staff employed. When you include other storage crops into the equation, like winter squash, onions, potatoes, cabbages, leeks and Brussels sprouts, it’s easy to see how diversity is not only a key component of healthy organic production, but how it is also an important component of the farm’s financial success. Many seasonal items provide a short window of opportunity for farmers to capitalize on production. Additionally, they’re highly perishable, and there is an enhanced level of competitive pressure when Farmers’ Markets and home gardens are providing many of us with the same products farmers are trying to sell. And, while root vegetables are generally available year-round, it’s in the winter months that most people crave and cook with them, and unless they’ve got a big garden and a good root cellar, consumers are making these purchases at the grocery store.

Warm and Healthy
Root vegetables are a great source of winter nutrition. They thrive in our growing season, and store well all year. They are the life source of the plant, and act as its bank of nutrients. They are packed full of vitamins and minerals, and are chock-full of phytonutrients. Root vegetables are a good source of Vitamins A and C, and provide us with a wealth of minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, and manganese. They’re naturally low in fat and high in fiber, making them good for the heart.

So, besides the fact that root vegetables are a readily available source of nutrients, they’re also packed full of energy in the form of carbohydrates—fiber, sugar, and starch. Sure, a nice warm soup or stew is going to make us feel warm and cozy regardless of whether it incorporates root vegetables, simply because of its physical temperature. However, it’s the conversion of the carbs found in root vegetables into glucose that boosts our energy and warms our core. Ata time when we’re getting eight hours of daylight, average temps are below freezing, our immune systems are stretched, seasonal depression is just kicking in, and we just made our New Year’s resolution to lose 15 pounds and get back in to a regular workout routine after the holidays, root vegetables are a great way to get that needed boost of energy and stay warm.

New Year’s Root Forecast
This year, we should have a good supply of locally grown root vegetables well into the New Year. Look for locally grown beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, celeriac, salsify, sunchokes, and burdock to last into March. Locally grown Tipi carrots should hold through January, possibly into February depending on how many you buy in January. Harmony Valley’s Soup Mix is a great product containing a variety of seasonal root veggies, and includes a soup and roasted root vegetable recipe. We’ll also be rotating root veggies on our Weeklies promotional program, so look for good deals on these great products throughout the winter months!

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