Winter Vegetables: Discovering New Roots
Choosing to eat seasonally, especially during the winter, helps create a more sustainable food system and supports local farmers.
Eating seasonally in Ontario’s winters can seem like an endless amount of squash and kale. But there are so many other amazing winter crops that are delicious and full of nutrients.
In Ontario during the wintertime,the vast majority of fresh produce is grown and shipped from down south, as far as Central America, California and beyond. Picking locally grown produce helps reduce transportation related emissions and helps support local farmers. Changing your diet with the seasons is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and make a more sustainable choice.
Ontario Winter Vegetables: Get to Know Your Roots
We love cooking with lesser-known crops in the wintertime. Often these root vegetables are only available for a limited time, so it can be a fun way to try new recipes and experiment. We especially root vegetables because of their complex starchy flavours and ability to make recipes feel both indulgent and nourishing.
We’re sharing our favourite root vegetables and how to use them:
Crisp and crunchy, with an earthy, almost floral sweetness, and a bit of a muddy bitterness, burdock root pairs well with miso, pork and most soups and stews. Be sure to peel the dark, almost black skin off the burdock root before eating. Burdock has naturally occurring enzymes that will discolor the newly-cut white flesh to a dark, muddy color if left exposed to air. To prevent discoloration, soak freshly peeled or chopped burdock root in a bowl of water until you’re ready to cook it. Burdock root is a great source of fibre, but can be woody in texture if eaten raw, it’s often used in stir fries, soups or pickled. Originating from Eurasia, burdock is a popular ingredient in Japanese recipes and often paired with pork and miso soup, or prepared with soy sauce and carrots.
Recipe to try: Pickled Roots & Charred Pear Salad
Also known as sunchokes or teasingly “fart-icokes”, Jerusalem artichokes are a type of root vegetable with a sweet, nutty flavour. Confusingly, they have nothing to do with Jerusalem and are not related to artichokes (although some think they have a similar taste). Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America, and grow well in Ontario. High in prebiotic fibre called inulin, Jerusalem artichokes have been found to help with regulating blood sugar levels, but they also can cause gastric distress to some people- hence “fartichoke”. Be sure to always peel and cook Jerusalem artichokes to help improve their digestibility, and although they taste delicious and you’ll want to eat them all up, start with trying just a little to see if you’re sensitive to their fibrous nature. Most people don’t find them troublesome, and enjoy them baked, roasted, fried or pureed in soups. They have a wonderful starchy flavour, and taste like the best baked potato that could ever exist.
Recipe to try: Sunchoke Soup with Mushrooms
Sometimes called celery root, celeriac is a hairy looking bulb that has an incredible flavour similar to parsley and celery. Originally from the Mediterranean, today celeriac is growing in popularity and can often be found on high-end restaurant menus. Although the exterior is knobby and rough, the inside has a white flesh similar to a potato. Roasted and pureed, celeriac offers big flavour and rich creaminess. A good source of fibre, potassium, antioxidants and vitamin K, celeriac is a great healthy option. Try it mashed on top of cottage pie for extra flavour and boost of nutrients.
Recipe to try: Apple Celeriac Salad
It’s exactly what it sounds like: parsley root is the taproot of the well-known parsley herb. Similar in appearance to parsnips, parsley root has a strong herbaceous flavour that takes like carrots and celery with parsley. It can be eaten raw, and can be grated into winter salads for a pop of herby flavour. It’s very high in antioxidants, and may help reduce inflammation in the body, along with supporting healthy liver function. We love parsley root oven roasted with good quality olive oil and salt.
Recipe to try: Parsley Root Fries with Roasted Tomato Ketchup
One of our all-time favourite vegetables! Salsify has such a unique flavour, it’s almost like oysters, or the best french fry. This slender root has a rough dark skin that needs to be peeled away before cooking. Make sure to put the freshly peeled or chopped white flesh into a bowl of cold water acidified with a squeeze of lemon juice while you’re preparing to cook, otherwise the enzymes in the root will discolor the snow-white flesh to a dark red-ish color. Just like all the other root vegetables on this list, salsify is nutrient dense and a great source of fibre. Salsify can be added to braises, soups and pureed, but it shines the best in the simplest of preparations: browned in a skillet with butter and salt.
Ontario Winter Produce: Add Some to Your Order
We are proud to carry these smaller crops from local Ontario farmers. We value eating seasonally and the positive impact that decision has on our environment and economy. This week try adding some Ontario grown produce to your order to support a more sustainable food system!
Let us know what Ontario winter vegetables you love to cook with on instagram @freshcityfarms and share your creations!