FOOD AND DIET
TO CHOOSE GOOD VEGETABLES
Root vegetables traditionally
form the staple of our winter crops, used in everything from the Sunday roast
to soups. Stuffed with vitamins and minerals, they'll even help you shake off
the winter blues.
Beetroot is closely
related to sugar beet and is believed to be derived from a wild species native
to the seashores of Europe. It's a beautiful deep scarlet or burgundy colour
and adds a dash of vibrancy to any winter dish. It's commonly used as a side
dish to traditional roast dinners, in summer salads or in sauces. The young
leaves of the beetroot can also be used in salads.
Thought to be originally from Afghanistan, carrots were once used by Middle
Eastern royalty to aid seduction. In the wild, the carrot's original colour is
white, and is only orange in colour due to cultivation by the Dutch in the
17th century. You can even buy purple carrots in some supermarkets: they're
not 'dyed' as appearance would suggest - this is the way they were grown in
the Middle East and India as far back as the tenth century. Carrots are a
member of the parsley family and are related to the parsnip, celery and
have a strong, sweet flavour, and are a good source of vitamin A, beta
carotene and potassium. Always choose firm, young carrots if possible, as
they're more tender. Carrots are delicious steamed as a side vegetable and
tossed with butter and a pinch of ground cumin, or roasted with other root
vegetables. Make a fragrant soup combining carrots with fresh coriander, and
mix grated carrots with chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice and chopped mint for
a fresh-tasting salad.
is another member of the parsley family and is closely related to celery.
Although it looks superficially like a turnip, the taste is much more similar
to that of celery. Celeriac is often used in soups and stews but can also be
used grated in salads. Alternatively it can be baked or boiled and used as a
side vegetable. It's quite an unusual vegetable and isn't very widely
available. The best time to look for celeriac is in the autumn and winter when
the main crop hits the markets. Peeled celeriac will darken so toss it in
lemon juice or add a little juice to the cooking water. When choosing your
celeriac try to go for roots that are less than four inches diameter, as the
smaller, younger roots tend to be much more tender and less woody.
The Jerusalem artichoke, not to be confused with
the globe artichoke, is actually a member of the daisy family and is closely
related to the sunflower. It's originally from North America but is widely
available in season. The artichoke is a crisp, underground tuber, white or
yellowish in colour, and is irregularly club shaped and quite knobbly. The
flesh is quite sweet due to the presence of inulin, which is a particular
sugar that can also be eaten by diabetics. Jerusalem artichokes can be baked
or made into soup.
member of the parsley family, the parsnip is a traditional winter vegetable.
The cold winter weather is partly responsible for its delicious flavour as the
cold helps to turn the starches into sugars. The parsnip has been used since
the time of the Roman Empire. It was extremely popular in the Middle Ages,
owing to its high carbohydrate content, sweet flavour and nutritious flesh.
The parsnip is high in potassium, calcium and vitamin A. In fact, it was the
staple root vegetable until it was ousted by the potato in the 16th century.
Parsnips are still widely used, especially in the winter months as roast
vegetables as well as in soups and other dishes.
Another member of the daisy family, salsify is one of the lesser known root
vegetables. It's also known as the oyster plant as its root tastes slightly of
oysters. The root of salsify is used in a similar way to any other root
vegetable, in soups, stews or mashed. Try using boiled salsify in a salad to
add a crisp delicate flavour.
swede, known as rutabaga in the US, is a comparative newcomer to our table. It
was developed in Bohemia, possibly in the 17th century, though there are no
written records of its development. Swedes can be purple, white or yellow in
colour with white or yellow flesh. It's a common winter vegetable and is
usually used in mash, stews and casseroles.
South America, the sweet potato may resemble the ordinary potato but it's
quite different botanically, if no less delicious. It's usually a pinky colour,
though it may look more white or purple depending on the variety, and can be
used in a number of different ways. They're a key ingredient to the American
Thanksgiving meal where they're baked and served with the roast turkey. As
with the ordinary potato, the sweet potato is incredibly versatile and can be
made into soup, fritters, or served simply as a dish on its own.
Turnip: The turnip has been known in Europe since
prehistoric times, and although it's used primarily for its root, the leaves
can also be eaten as spring greens. It's a member of the Brassica genus which
it shares with swedes and cabbages. Turnips vary considerably in shape, size
and colour; they can be round, flattened or cylindrical, yellow or white, with
or without a green or purple zone near the top. Turnips are used in a similar
way to swede: mashed, roasted or used in casseroles.