As the days get shorter, the weather gets colder, and the leaves fall from the trees, our appetites naturally guide us towards more substantial, warming foods. Among the most satisfying of dishes during this time of the year are those made with root vegetables.
The roots of any plant are its anchor and foundation, its essential parts that provide support and nourishment. Root vegetables soak up minerals from the earth and lend their energetically grounding properties to us when we eat them, making us feel physically and mentally rooted and increasing our stability, stamina and endurance.
Roots are naturally sweet and a rich source of nutritious complex carbohydrates, which are converted to necessary sugars, enter the bloodstream slowly, and keep energy levels steady. Sugar cravings diminish significantly as a result.
Long roots, such as carrots, parsnips, and daikon radish, are excellent blood purifiers, aiding circulation and increasing mental clarity. Round roots, like beets, turnips, radishes, and rutabaga (a hybridization of turnips and cabbage) are particularly nourishing to the stomach, spleen, pancreas, and reproductive organs.
Additional advantages of these grounding vegetables are that they’re abundant, they allow us to eat locally in season, they’re inexpensive, and they’re basically interchangeable in recipes since they have very similar density and cooking times. This encourages plenty of variety and experimentation!
Choose fresh, firm vegetables, organic whenever possible. Store them carefully, keeping potatoes and turnips in a cool, dark place out of the refrigerator. When preparing, simplify your life by making a big enough batch to allow for leftovers – follow the principle of “cook once, eat twice.”
“Dig Your Veggies” Medley
Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes
- 2 golden or red beets
- 2 turnips
- 2 carrots
- 2 parsnips
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 daikon radish
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 red onion
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 T. tamari soy sauce
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 T. chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
- ¼ t. coarsely ground pepper
- Sea salt to taste
- Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Wash and peel all the vegetables. Cut beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, and daikon into large bite-sized pieces. Coarsely chop fennel and cut onion into 8 wedges.
3. Place in a large baking dish with sides.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, tamari, orange zest, herbs, and pepper.
5. Pour dressing over the vegetables and mix well to coat. Use additional olive oil if necessary.
6. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes so that vegetables do not stick.
7. When vegetables are tender and golden brown, check seasoning; add sea salt to taste.
8. Serve topped with pumpkins seeds if desired.
Note: Any combination of root vegetables works. This is a great side dish, or makes a perfect one-dish meal by serving over a whole grain, such as quinoa. Garnishing with crumbled goat cheese is also a nice variation.
Sue Smith is a Certified Health Counselor and owner of Prime Health Style in Westport. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Sue creates completely personalized, sustainable programs for her clients to help them achieve their wellness goals and lead happier and healthier lives. She leads workshops on nutrition and offers health counseling to individuals, families, and groups.
Photo by Cheryl Pollack