Storing and Using Root Vegetables
The days of fresh summer fruits and vegetables are behind us yet again and it’s time to make friends with the root vegetable. Summer produce is tasty and decadent in a way that only fragile, temperamental things can be. Root vegetables, however, are dependable. They can last us through the winter with very little nurturing and with some creativity, you can go from slogging through another squash casserole to looking forward to it.
Storing root vegetables is easy. If you’re harvesting from your garden, you can leave most crops in the ground with a heavy blanket of mulch until you’re ready to use them. Otherwise, they need a cool, moist, dark environment like an unheated basement or garage. You can build a root cellar or just bury an old cooler before the ground freezes. Your refrigerator crisper drawer isn’t a bad place to keep root vegetables, but your space will be limited.
Using Root Vegetables
Instead of writing a kitchen post, we’re just going to let you in on a secret that self-sufficiency experts who like to eat well learned long ago: You know who knows how to cook vegetables better than anyone on Earth? People who live on vegetables. Even if you’re a devoted carnivore, don’t be embarrassed to pick up a few vegetarian cookbooks. Other cookbooks tend to treat vegetables as afterthoughts, but cooks who focus on vegetables can help you actually enjoy that long winter.
For example, if you’re missing your grill in winter, drag it back out, slice up your root vegetables and grill them with olive oil and a little salt. The sugar in the vegetable will caramelize where it touches the hot grill, making everything a little sweeter. Grilled vegetables are always improved with rosemary. If you’ve got a big plant or one that has died or gone dormant in the cold, use the woody stems as skewers. If you like mashed potatoes keep in mind you can mash almost every other root vegetable for the same effect. Turnips, parsnips, pumpkins and every kind of potato are nutritious and tasty with a little sea salt mashed in.
For the best recipes, go with a cookbook that features a vegetarian chef. Molly Katzen of the Moosewood Restaurant in New York is a solid choice. Check out any one of her books to spark your vegetable creativity:
Vegetarian cookbooks will teach you how to use root vegetables, and even some of those stored dried beans, to make amazing soups, tarts and dinner frittatas that supplement your emergency stash and get you through the dark days of winter and back to blueberry, peach and watermelon season again!