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Published October 02, 2012, 11:40 PM

Fall a great time to take advantage of abundance of fresh root vegetables

What season do you most associate with making soup? I’ve never seen a survey that provided a definitive answer to this question, but my guess would be that a majority of people would say winter.

By: Jeff Tiedeman, Forum Communications, INFORUM

What season do you most associate with making soup?

I've never seen a survey that provided a definitive answer to this question, but my guess would be that a majority of people would say winter. And there may have been a time when that would have been my response.

But as I've gotten older, fall has come to the forefront in my opinion. The reason is quite simple: No other time during the year are root vegetables fresher.

And to me, soups that contain carrots, rutabagas and perhaps parsnips and turnips capture the essence of fall.

For one thing, all of these vegetables can stay in the ground until late October. A hard frost that kills other more delicate garden produce such as tomatoes and peppers has virtually no effect on root vegetables. Second, the cold soil temperature even sweetens them. (Parsnips can remain over winter in the garden for spring harvest, which I’ve done a couple of years.)

This fall, we’ve twice had some homemade soup that featured fresh root veggies. Most recently, I threw together a batch of vegetable beef (elk was substituted) soup with homemade egg noodles. The soup, which contained the aforementioned carrots and rutabagas, was a favorite of my dad, Hap. (He made the soup and Mom the noodles.)

And a few weeks earlier, I made a borscht loaded with beets – another root vegetable – that turned out quite well.

But soups aren’t the only tasty dishes that can make good use out of fresh root vegetables. A number of recipes for breads and cakes as well as sauces, salads and sides star root vegetables.

Last week, Therese made a carrot cake for our grandson Rakeem’s birthday, and I successfully attempted a not-too-sweet-but-sweet-enough carrot-zucchini bread.

Find both the borscht and carrot cake recipes at http://chefjeff.areavoices.com.

Healthiest of veggies

Root vegetables traditionally haven’t been given a lot of respect – just like comedian Rodney Dangerfield – despite being a great choice nutritionally. For example:

  • Carrots have among the highest levels of beta-carotene available in a single food source. They also are loaded with vitamin C and potassium. Carrots are at their nutritional height value when lightly cooked because the outer fiber breaks down to enable easier nutrient absorption.

  • Rutabagas (1 cup cooked) have only about 70 calories and 1 percent of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. They also are high in vitamin C, calcium, potassium, fiber and B vitamins.

  • Beets contain the highest sugar content of all vegetables and are packed with vitamins A, B and C, along with potassium and a number of other minerals. They also are considered blood cleansers and builders. (Beets are most nutritious when steamed.)

  • Turnips are loaded with vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and other minerals.

  • Parsnips are among the highest-ranked vegetables for folate, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and various trace minerals. They also are very low in cholesterol and saturated fat.

  • Sweet potatoes and yams, which are packed with vitamins A and C, also contain potassium, manganese and other essential trace minerals.

Tiedeman is food editor at the Grand Forks Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572.

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