Friday, February 19, 2010

Ask Chef Mary...Root Vegetables?

Dear Hail Mary, I am always hearing about how root vegetables, like parsnips and turnips, are good for you...why is this? Any tips on how to make them tasty AND healthy? HELP! Regards, "Getting to the Root of it"

Dear Getting to the Root of it,

In the winter month of February, it’s a perfect time to investigate the root vegetables. Most root vegetables are packed with vitamin C and have health benefits such as a diuretic, aids digestion and an anti arthritic agent.

Root vegetables may not appeal to you on first glance. They’re funny to look at and are not the go-to vegetables for most everyday dishes. However, in these cold winter months, they can be a perfect addition to your weekly menu and fit in wherever potatoes are present. Here’s a list of a few of my favorites.


The parsnip looks like a beautiful white carrot, but they are much stronger in flavor. They originated from the Mediterranean. They are loaded with vitamin C and help to relieve headaches, muscle aches and bloating.

Unusual as they are to look at, parsnips are a delicious addition to any root vegetable mixture. Remove their skin right before cooking or after they have been cooked to prevent oxidation and browning of the flesh. Raw, fried, boiled or roasted parsnips are actually very popular in some traditional holiday feasts.


These purple, white and very round veggies are extremely rich in vitamin C as well. They are a descendent from European origins and like the parsnip the turnip is also a diuretic as well as a refreshing and revitalizing root vegetable.

When they’re underground, the turnips are white and as they emerge from the soil the turnips turn purple where the light has hit them. The insides, however, are white and can easily be mistaken for rutabagas.

Turnip “greens,” or the top of the turnip, can be eaten in salads. You can also use the greens in cooked dishes. The older the turnips, the more bitter the greens. The inner part of the turnip resembles a radish in taste and use. Pick out a beautiful, unbruised, and heavy in weight turnip for the freshest and best flavor.


The rutabaga can be commonly mistaken for a turnip, but when you look at the two, side by side, notice how the purple color runs to the bottom of the rutabaga. Whereas the Turnip is encircled by purple at the top by the stem.

Rutabagas are a cross between the savoy cabbage and the turnip. The rutabaga is loaded with vitamin C and is a diuretic, similar to both the turnip and the parsnip.

When picking out rutabagas, look for no marks or bruises andmake sure that it’s heavy in weight and has a mild and musty smell. This should ensure a fresh vegetable.


Of course you know carrots, but did you also know they come in variations of color like red, purple, yellow and orange. They originate from the Middle East and Central Asia and, like parsnips and turnips, they too are loaded with vitamin C. They’re also loaded with B-carotene, which converts to vitamin A, and are known to help improve your vision during both the day and night. Carrots are delicious. Carrots should be firm to the touch and not bend too easily.

Use the above root vegetables in a roasted medley mix. Cut at the same size and ???they should cook at the same time. When combined together they create a balanced flavor of sweet and savory.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Time- 1 hour Serving Size- 4

3 carrots: peeled and chopped into equal size but roughly chopped pieces

1 turnip: peeled and chopped into equal size, roughly chopped

2 parsnip: peeled and chopped into equal size, roughly chopped

1 rutabaga: peeled and chopped into equal size, roughly chopped

1 bunch flat leaf parsley; finely chopped

2 sprigs of thyme

5 cloves garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

2 Chef pinches of kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Parchment Paper

Nonstick spray


In a large bowl combine all the root vegetables. Add the leaves from the thyme sprigs (or dried thyme). Add olive oil, salt and pepper. Add non-stick spray to the parchment paper that’s on top of a cookie sheet (if your cookie sheet is dark, the bottoms of the vegetables will cook faster, so beware). Add the vegetables and beware of over-crowding. If it seems like there are too many, spread the extra on a second cookie sheet. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring frequently. Top with the fresh parsley, chopped garlic and lemon juice. Serve with chicken, fish, pork, white beans, or poached egg.

Give them a try.

Happy Cooking!

Chef Mary

This article is also found on my column at The Washington Times Communities

Grilled Root Vegetables on FoodistaGrilled Root Vegetables