Marcus Samuelsson, the famed New York chef, loves his root vegetables. In fact, five of his favorites are parsnips, turnips, beets, sweet potatoes and jicama, yes jicama. These are a staple on his menu, particularly in the cold weather months. Like many great chefs, Marcus recognizes the health benefits that root vegetables are loaded with, as well as some of their unusual tastes, that make a perfect compliment to virtually any main course.
By now we all know that these underground plants generally have no fat, are low in calories, high in vitamins and complex carbohydrates, and are jam-packed with phytonutrients that contain antioxidants, which are good for your heart health and can lower your risk of infections and some forms of cancer.
When it comes to parsnips, you can store them loosely wrapped in your refrigerator’s produce drawer for two to three weeks. Parsnips contain quite a bit of fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K, so why not give them a try? Look for parsnips that are small and firm for the best taste. And speaking of great taste, enjoy this side dish recipe of parsnips from another great New York chef, Mario Batali: http://www.foodista.com/blog/2012/12/03/mario-batali-shares-cold-weather-parsnips-recipe.
Now, on to turnips. This root vegetable is high in sulfuric compounds and that’s good because sulfur is required for the synthesis of glutathione, one of our premier endogenous antioxidants. Of course, your mother probably doesn’t say with any degree of regularity, “It’s time to eat your turnips” but maybe she should. Look for turnips that aren’t wrinkled and that have the stems and roots attached. Store tightly wrapped in the coldest area of the fridge.
Please, let’s give beets a chance. We love beets, particularly golden beets, but the beets in a can just can’t live up to the beets from a produce section or a farmer’s market. Beets are loaded with what’s good for you including high in fiber, low in calories, and many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Look for beets with fresh-looking greens, and always remember to purchase bunches of beets in similar sizes so you can cook them uniformly. And here’s another recipe from a famed New York chef, Bobby Flay, for his grilled beet salad: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/roasted-red-yellow-beets-with-goat-cheese-lemon-tarragon-vinaigrette-recipe.html.
Ah yes, the mighty sweet potato. This tuber is also a loaded with goodness as a member of the root vegetable family. It is high in beta-carotene which is good for regulating the growth of cells, and controls immune system reactions. It is also rich in fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin D and vitamin C. So what’s stopping you? Always store potatoes of any variety in a dark, cool and dry place that is well ventilated.
Finally, Marcus suggests we jump on the bandwagon with jicama. It’s low in calories, rich in vitamin C and contains antioxidants. Choose jicamas that are medium sized, round and firm and store them like a potato. Here are two jicama recipes that Marcus is now featuring: http://www.marcussamuelsson.com/recipe/one-ingredient-two-ways-using-jicama-for-turkey-burgers-and-a-roasted-salad.
So let’s use these cooler months to get acquainted or reacquainted with the mighty root vegetable. They are great tasting and wonderful for you!