Hearty Cool-Weather Crops Are In!
By Contributing Author: Sharon A. See
This is such a great time of year for cooking with these healthy and flavorful vegetables. I’ve picked my ten favorite to share with you this week. I hope these turn out to be some of your favorites too!
It’s soup season! Soups and stews make great meals in the colder months. And, they are particularly handy for busy families. You can prepare in advance and refrigerate or freeze until you need them. I add greens like escarole to just about every soup or stew and crock pot meal we make. I especially love escarole because it doesn’t have a particularly strong taste on its own, so it blends well in most any soup or stew. Escarole is also easier to digest than some of the other heartier fall greens so can be a good choice for young children or other family members with sensitive digestion. However, escarole is not a lightweight when it comes to nutrition. It’s a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. To up the fiber content even more and add a little protein, try a simple soup of escarole and white bean. Pair it with a loaf of Italian bread or a French baguette and you’ll have tasty, quick, nutritious meal for the entire family.
Turnips always remind me of Thanksgiving. Growing up we only saw turnips once a year on the holiday table. Boy, were we missing out by not having them more often. This root crop is packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, yet low in calories. One cup of cooked turnips has only 51 calories which is about 25% the calories in the same serving size of potatoes. Yet, it provides 5g of fiber, along with calcium, potassium, vitamin C and boat load of B vitamins. Turnips are cousins of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts but have a texture more like a squash than broccoli. Here’s our favorite turnip recipe that features fresh ground horseradish—another tasty root crop.
Smashed Turnips with Fresh Horseradish
Rutabaga is a cross between turnip and cabbage. On the outside, it can be tough to tell the difference. Rutabagas are a bit larger with yellow flesh and a purple top, where turnips are a bit smaller with white flesh and purple trim. The farmers at the Monroe market will happily show you which is which. Rutabaga a sweeter tasting than its cousin the turnip and can be mashed, roasted, used in soups or stews, or cut like fries as a potato substitute. Personally, I prefer the taste and texture of a rutabaga over turnips in most recipes. But, they can be interchangeable. Here are some recipes that combine the two.
Turnip and Rutabaga Recipes
Brussels sprouts are truly a cold weather crop. They reach their peak season in the fall and are available through the winter. They become most flavorful after the first frost. Another one of the cruciferous veggies that are plentiful this time of year, they are chock full of fiber, vitamins and minerals with very few calories. For the freshest sprouts buy them still on the stalk. Leave them on the stalk until you are ready to prepare them for cooking. I find a good set of kitchen shears work well to safely remove the sprouts from their stalk. Brussels sprouts are so versatile that you should never be bored with them. Just to be sure, here are 25 Brussels sprout recipes for you!
Brussels Sprouts Recipes
Cauliflower is another cold weather vegetable that is power-packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Like its cruciferous cousins, cauliflower is rich in cancer fighting sulfur compounds, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Purple cauliflower is an even better nutritional choice. The taste is about the same, but the purple color comes from increased levels of antioxidants and it contains about 25% more vitamin A than white cauliflower. Both white and purple cauliflower make a great low calorie, high fiber substitute for mashed potatoes. Try it out using your favorite mashed potato recipe, or try out one of these dairy free recipes.
Dairy-Free Mashed Cauliflower
Celeriac is that ugly, hairy, warty looking root ball at the farmer’s market. Celeriac can also be called celery root or knob celery. Which is kind of deceiving name, because it’s not the root of a celery plant at all. It’s a member of the same plant family as celery, but it’s grown specifically for the root. The thick white flesh inside is crunchy when you bite into it and has a stronger, earthier flavor than celery. As with other root crops, it’s rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in calories. Celeriac is very versatile and can be roasted and eaten all on its own, incorporated into soups and stews, mashed like potatoes, and added to salads. Here are some recipes for you to try.
Parsnips look a lot like carrots, but are larger and lighter in color. Parsnips are not quite as sweet tasting as a carrot and have a nuttier, heartier flavor. Lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and a touch of olive oil before roasting in the oven is my favorite way to eat them. It really brings out the earthy flavors. Like other root crops they are loaded with lots of minerals and other beneficial nutrients. Most notable is the high level of B vitamins like folate. Folate is one of the must have doctor recommended nutrients for pregnant women to reduce the risk of birth defects. Parsnips are also abundant in potassium which is a key nutrient for heart health.
Of all the squashes that come into season this time of year, Butternut Squash is at the top of my list. It adds a tasty nutty flavor to any recipe, and it’s hearty enough to stand on its own. It’s so easy to cook when you’re pressed for time. Slice it in half long ways, take out the seeds, brush it with some olive oil and bake face down on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, scrape it out of the skin into a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste for a quick and easy side dish. I also love it for breakfast! Here’s a recipe that I cook up on the weekend and keep in the fridge. On weekday mornings I heat a cup or so in the microwave and top with a fried egg for a protein packed hearty breakfast in under 5 minutes.
Kale Salad with Butternut Squash and Almonds
Acorn Squash is another one of those squashes that cook up easily for a quick and easy side to any meal. I usually choose ones that are a bit small that when cut in half will be a single serving of vegetable to add to a meal. I slice them in half and spoon out the seeds so that they look like little cups. I break the stem off the top piece so it sits flat. I coat the exposed flesh lightly with olive oil or butter; sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar and bake flesh side up on a cookie sheet for about 25-30 minutes. I serve one half to each person. It’s a tasty side to any protein and makes a nice presentation. When I have more time, I may choose to stuff with apples or other seasonal favorites.
Spaghetti Squash is an oblong shaped yellow squash. Like other squashes, spaghetti squash offers a healthy dose of important vitamins, minerals and fiber with a low calorie count. But surprisingly it also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fats which are important healthy fats along with a fair amount of protein, while being relatively low in carbohydrates. It's’ a great veggie if you eat a more Paleo style diet. This squash variety is served up a little differently and can be used in substitution for pasta. You can cut it in half and bake like the butternut and acorn varieties, or you can boil the two halves. When tender, scrape a fork across the flesh to separate in into strands. Serve the squash with your favorite sauce or other pasta topping. Here’s an easy spaghetti squash pasta recipe for you.
Easy Spaghetti Squash Pasta
About Sharon A. See
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. And if you’d like some customized strategies for you and your family, please reach out to me. Or, if you have farmers’ market or healthy eating related topics you’d like to hear more about or questions you’d like answered, please feel free to let me know. You will find my contact information below.
Sharon A. See
Certified Holistic Health Coach
You can find me and other interesting articles, resources, and recipes on my website at www.vitalizedwellness.com.
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The Monroe Farmers' Market is open June–October and offers fresh, locally-grown produce, baked goods, prepared foods and hand-crafted specialty foods to Connecticut locals.