It’s that time of year when many people wonder how they can get good nutrition when farmers’ markets are in short supply of fresh vegetables.
Yes, you can find crisp lettuce at the grocery store, but it’s often not local. The tomatoes might look red, but they’re not very tasty. And where is that zucchini you tossed in the middle of summer? Now you could really use it.
I suggest you forget about the glamorous vegetables of summer and turn to the more humble veggies of fall – root vegetables.
The unglamorous tubers – beets, parsnips and rutabagas – might not be as glorious as the common tubers we eat, such as carrots, radishes, potatoes and sweet potatoes. But they are loaded with complex carbohydrates, fiber, phytoestrogens, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and beta carotene. These foods cut down on heart disease, help prevent cancer and reduce our risk of developing diabetes.
We all want these benefits, which might mean a trip to the grocery store to reconsider the produce you usually skip over. Let’s look at how you might incorporate these three veggies into your food game plan this fall.
I love them; my wife, Penny, hates them. I associate beets with the cold beet borscht soup I ate with my grandfather. He had a mustache, too: It was white when he started slurping the beet soup, and pink by the time he finished the last spoonful. Fond memories for me.
Penny remembers gagging when she saw her mom head to the table with beets. But I have won her over with grilled beets. I prepare them by roasting them on the barbecue, then tossing them in extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, walnuts and a bit of goat cheese. Yummy.
Beets are loaded vitamin C and folate and have a high level of betalains, an antioxidant that may soak up a body’s free radicals, those pesky chemicals that encourage cancer to grow.
Next on my plate are parsnips. These look like carrots, but don’t eat them raw – you won’t be happy. This vegetable is loaded with vitamin C, potassium and folate, and it’s a treasure chest of vitamin K.
When you shop for them, pick out the thin ones, which are sweeter than the fat ones. I cook them in vegetable soup or add them to my homemade chicken noodle soup. They add a robust sweet flavor that makes the broth unbeatable.
Also think about adding them to your mashed potatoes for a provocative taste. It takes the potato to a new high.
This much-maligned vegetable started as a hybrid between cabbage and turnips. When prepared the old-fashioned Swedish way, they taste like dry, bitter mush. Yes, rutabagas are loaded with vitamin C, potassium and fiber, but if you aren’t creative, you’ll dump them.
I recommend thin slices on the grill with a little olive oil. Or cut them into matchstick-size pieces and toss them into your next stir fry.
The way I like all of my “rooties” is to combine them together, toss with a bit of olive oil, garlic, parsley or basil, and sprinkle with some hot sauce. Then roast them at 400 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes, moving them around a bit every so often. This is a gorgeous side dish that might even impress your mother-in-law (no guarantee there).
My spin: Be an adventurous eater. When I was a kid, we never ate avocados, and now they’re mainstream. If you haven’t tried my big three veggies, think again. With a bit of creativity, you might find yourself licking your lips.
Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a popular radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.