Harvest of the Month at Tahoe Truckee Unified School District: Featured produce for November is root vegetables | SierraSun.com

Harvest of the Month at Tahoe Truckee Unified School District: Featured produce for November is root vegetables

Maria Martin
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; With the exception of potatoes and carrots, most root vegetables donand#8217;t attract much attention. Even though they may not win a vegetable popularity contest, root vegetables have played a significant nutritional role in diets throughout history and are an important seasonal food to include in your diet today.

Root vegetables are very economical and more nutritious than most people realize. They can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling, provide an important source of calories (in the form of starch), are high in Vitamin C, potassium and fiber and can be prepared in a variety of ways. This month, local elementary school students are learning about the underground world of root vegetables and are exploring and tasting rutabagas, parsnips and jicama in the classroom as part of the Harvest of the Month program.

Rutabagas are a cross between a wild cabbage and a turnip and have been mentioned in history since the 17th century. They are often thought of as yellow turnips, but their botanical name is Braccia napus, which means they are a cruciferous vegetable. Rutabagas thrive in cold climates and as a result they became very popular in Scandinavia, especially Sweden. In fact, in Europe, rutabagas are still called swedes. Historically, rutabagas were carved into candle lanterns at Halloween and put on windowsills to ward off harmful spirits.

Parsnips resemble carrots, but are paler than most carrots, have a starchier texture and a sweeter taste. Until the potato arrived from the New World, the place of the potato was occupied by parsnips and other root vegetables. The parsnip originated in the Mediterranean region and was originally the size of a baby carrot. Parsnips were made into wine and jam in 16th century Germany, as well as dried and ground into a type of flour for sweet cakes. Today, you are more likely to spot a parsnip with a roast or hearty stew.

Jicama belongs to the legume or bean family. It is popular in Latin America and widely grown in Mexico and Central America. It is also called the yam bean root, Mexican turnip and Chinese potato. Jicama is similar in shape to a turnip or large radish. Jicama can be eaten raw or cooked and is a great addition to vegetable trays. Jicama can also be substituted for water chestnuts in stir frys and other Asian dishes. While Jicama certainly would not win a vegetable beauty contest, raw jicama is a cool crunchy veggie thatand#8217;s high in fiber, Vitamin C and hydrating water!

Root vegetables are very versatile. While rutabagas and parsnips are usually eaten cooked, they can also be served raw. Peel first, then slice, chop, or grate into salads or coleslaws. They are also excellent roasted, boiled steamed, mashed or stewed. All of these root vegetables are good sources of Vitamin C and fiber. Rutabagas are also high in potassium and parsnips are a good source of Vitamin K and complex carbohydrates.

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Choose firm, medium sized jicama that are smooth with no bruises or spots. Soft or wet spots may indicate rot and larger jicama tend to have less flavor. Jicama can be stored for up to four months in a cool dry place or up to a week in the refrigerator, when sliced. Rutabagas can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to four months and in the refrigerator for up to a month. Choose rutabagas that are smooth, round and firm. Select parsnips that are medium sized with uniform, creamy beige skin. Wrap unwashed parsnips in a paper towel, and place in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer. They will keep there for about two weeks.

Eat with the seasons and expose yourself to new flavors and textures by going beyond the potato and the carrot when choosing root vegetables. Try something new by including celery root with your traditional Thanksgiving Day mashed potatoes. Celery root, also known as celeriac is a close relative of regular celery. Choose baseball-sized roots with a firm exterior and without fleshy spots or discolorations. This is a favorite recipe of mine. The celery root provides a fresh taste and adds zest to traditional mashed potatoes so you wonand#8217;t be tempted to pile on butter or gravy.

and#8212; Maria Martin, MPH, RD is a member of the Nutrition Coalition and a Wellness Dietitian. The Nutrition Coalition is funded and supported by the Tahoe Forest Health System through the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance. Contact us at 530-587-3769, ext. 7126 or mmartin@tfhd.com.

(Makes about 10 servings, 3/4 cup each

Ingredients:

2 pounds celery root

3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

4 Tbs. butter

1/2 cup nonfat or low fat buttermilk

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 cup diced fresh chives

Preparation: Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch pieces. Peel celery root using a paring knife and following the shape of the root. Cut into 1-inch pieces.

Place potatoes, celery root and garlic into a medium stock pot with enough water to cover, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to simmer and cook until very tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain vegetables and return to the pot. Place over low heat to dry out.

Combine butter, buttermilk, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a small sauce pan over medium heat until butter is melted. Pour over potato mixture and combine using a potato masher until fluffy and smooth. (If you prefer a very smooth texture, pass the cooked vegetables through a food mill or ricer)

Just before serving, top with chives and a dash of nutmeg.