ant to add a sweet note to winter side dishes? Create your own symphony of hearty meal accompaniments with an array of root vegetables.
These include carrots, turnips, beets, garlic, onions, parsnips, rutabaga, celery root (celeriac), Jerusalem artichokes and sweet and regular potatoes. The underground treats are the starchy tubers and taproots of plants, and fall is the best time to savor them because the frosty weather transforms the starch into sugar.
Not the prettiest members of the produce section, root veggies are often misshapen and odd-looking. Think of celeriac with its hairy-looking roots knotted around its bulbous bottom. But when you trim up the celery root, you'll be rewarded with a delicate flavor that is delicious eaten raw in a salad or cooked in a soup.
Another misunderstood root vegetable is the Jerusalem artichoke, which isn't from Jerusalem and isn't an artichoke. With the appearance of a knob of ginger, it's easy to overlook the veggie as something not edible. Above ground, you'd never know you were looking at a Jerusalem artichoke as the plant produces what looks like a small sunflower.
Christine Faith, an avid urban farmer, has loads of these growing in her backyard.
"I love Jerusalem artichokes," she said. "So easy to grow and they are tasty. When I harvest them, I keep them in my crisper drawer (wrapped in) a damp paper towel."
To prepare Jerusalem artichokes, Faith cuts them uniformly in 1/4-inch slices and places them on a cookie sheet. She drizzles them with olive oil, sprinkles them with a dash of garlic salt and bakes them at 350 degrees about 20 minutes until "golden brown and slightly crunchy."
Michele Mukatis, owner of Cultivate Health, grows a lot of vegetables.
"I personally prefer root veggies to other vegetables," she said.
"From an Ayurvedic perspective, this is probably because they ground me. Anything that grows under the earth - potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, yams and their veggie compatriots - are good for those whose heads are in the clouds or are so busy they tend to forget that their feet stabilize and support their every move."
From a gardening perspective, Mukatis likes root vegetables because "they are so easy to grow, and carrots are my tomatoes. Plus, these veggies are loaded with fiber and vitamins."