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Rutland, VT, 05701
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Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) promotes local food knowledge, production and market opportunities for farmers and community members throughout our region.

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Eat Your Root Vegetables

Phil Gurley

By Lindsay Courcelle

It’s time to enjoy your local root veggies! Photo by Lindsay Courcelle

It’s time to enjoy your local root veggies! Photo by Lindsay Courcelle

I recently asked my friend Maeve Mangine, of Tangled Roots Farm, how she consumes as much goats milk as she does. Her answer was simple and to the point: “I just drink it.” Of course, I know. She went on to say, “You know when you’re really hungry and your stomach is growling? A glass of milk is so quick, energizing, and satisfying.”

This description inspired me to make a habit of drinking glasses of raw goats milk. I needed a little prodding for whatever reason, but now experience the same health giving benefits that Maeve described.

I have applied this “just do it” advice to eating more veggies as well. The longer I farm, the more vegetables I eat. I grew up eating vegetables with dinner, but often not many with breakfast or lunch. That means I may have only eaten one or two servings of vegetables each day.

I think a lot of people are probably conditioned to eat this way and might want or need Maeve’s advice. Often our market customers will ask how long their veggies will last. Luckily, most local vegetables stay fresh longer than their grocery store counterparts, but that’s beside the point. Eat the veggies! Fast! While they have their highest nutritional value! While they taste best. Eat the veggies, and you will feel good. Try something new. You might love it!

At the farmers market right now, the frost sensitive crops like peppers and tomatoes are nearing an end, but plenty of fall vegetables are taking their place. There are many familiar fall crops, like carrots and potatoes, but some are less common to the average modern-day Vermonter.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown on the less familiar fall root veggies. You should be able to find these at local farmers markets, farm stands, or the Rutland Area Food Co-op.

Strange looking root with celery-like top? That’s celeriac, or celery root. The bulb has a tangle of roots making it quite strange looking.  Trim off all of the edges of the bulb before you use it. Try it boiled and mashed into potatoes, grated raw, or in soups. The top looks like celery but is not juicy or tender. Toss the green tops into a soup or in the freezer for future seasoning.

Parsnips look like long, white carrots. When roasted, they are deliciously sweet. They pair well with all other root vegetables and are a sure bet with kids.

We know only a few die-hard daikon radish fans, but it is gaining popularity. Daikon is a long, white mild radish. It is known for cancer prevention and weight loss, and is a tonic for the liver and lungs. It is delicious grated raw eaten alongside anything. You can also use it as you would most root vegetables, in soups, stews, roasted, or stir-fried. It helps with digestion, which is why it is often served with fried tempura dishes. The greens are edible too, and full of nutrition as well.

Rutabaga is one of my favorites. It is a large root vegetable with a yellow tint and purple top. The flavor is sweet and mild. Peel (if you want), chop, and roast in a hot oven as “rutabaga fries”, boil and mash it, or add to soups and stews. We like to roast it with sweet potatoes and spices like chili powder and cumin.

Gilfeather turnips, technically white rutabagas, are an heirloom variety that originated in Wardsboro, VT where they hold the Gilfeather Turnip Festival each October. They are said to be extremely sweet and tasty.

Purple top turnips are a close cousin of rutabaga, but have a sharper taste. Try these shredded and fried as hash browns, sautéed, or roasted. Salad turnips are very different—sweet and crunchy with no bite, and meant to be eaten raw. Scarlet turnips are somewhat in between in flavor. All can be cooked a variety of ways.

When in doubt, chop a mix of root veggies, coat in oil, and roast in a hot oven until tender and caramelized. Roasted roots are a staple in our house and are filling, tasty, versatile, and nutritious.

To incorporate more vegetables into your breakfasts, cook leftover roasted root veggies with a fried egg, or simply eat dinner leftovers for breakfast. For snacks, eat raw salad turnips or carrot sticks or slices of raw beets with cheddar cheese. Lunch could be a soup, a wrap filled with shredded root veggies, or a kale salad.

As the daylight hours decrease, work more fresh local food into your diet for increased immunity and good health. Go on, just do it.

Lindsay Courcelle and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, a farm business growing vegetables and herbs in West Rutland. You can reach her at alchemygardens@gmail.com.

Originally published in the Rutland Herald.