By Mark Mulcahy
October is still a fantastic month to grill and the cooler weather provides lots of tasty produce items to consider. Melissa's organic broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are all great on the grill.
I’ve been experimenting with all of these with fantastic results, but my new found favorites are roots! Yes, those round and pointed vegetables many of us walk by when we visit the produce department. I’ve been playing with them and encourage you to as well. Nothing fancy mind you. I just slice them about an 1/8’ thick (a mandolin works well for this), coat them with a little organic olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.I put them on a hot pre-oiled grill and let the magic happen. You will need to keep an eye on them so they don't burn. I set the timer for 2 minutes then check them and continue in 2 minute intervals until one side gets some nice grill marks, give them a flip and cook them until they are soft.
They are great alone as a side dish, added to an organic arugula salad, or as the beginings of a really awesome burrito.
Now that I’ve piqued your curiousity, let’s talk about how to choose them and some of the other benefits they have besides tasting good. Melissa’s organic rutabagas should feel firm and solid, never spongy. Look for a shiny, fairly smooth skin that is tan, with a dark purple band on the top. Avoid dull or faded looking roots, as they will be woody in texture. Rutabagas have a yellow flesh and a strong, yet sweet, flavor. For sweetest flavor, choose smaller rutabagas, about 4" in diameter.
Rutabagas are high in vitamin C, the B vitamins, calcium, and fiber and are a rich source of beta-carotene and potassium as well. When cooked right they have a sweet, peppery flavor which makes them tasty additions to salads, soups, or stews. Rutabagas store well in the refrigerator, for up to two weeks.
Melissas organic turnips are an excellent produce value, especially when you buy them with the greens. You get two vegetables for the price of one. The root and the greens. The greens can be slightly sweet and tender when they are young, but can also be somewhat tougher, with a sharper taste as they age. But don’t let that stop you. Why would you want to eat turnip greens? Well for one thing they are more nutritious than the root. Turnip greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and a good source of riboflavin, calcium and iron.
Choose turnips with greens that are crisp looking with a bright green color. To store, remove the greens from the root and keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Thoroughly wash to remove sand or dirt and remove and cut away any thick ribs before cooking. Turnip greens are as versatile as the root when it comes to cooking including boiling, sautéing, steaming and stir-frying. They can stand on their own as a vegetable or be added as a complement to many winter dishes.
Turnips are a member of the mustard family, which means they are also related to cabbage and cauliflower. Their colors can range from white to yellow to a beautiful red and their flavor from sulfury to sweet. Some turnip varieties are grown for their greens while other varieties are grown for their roots. The familiar purple top, which is found in most stores, can produce up to a 6-inch round turnip root, but it is also grown for its greens. Less common, yet definitely worthwhile, are what’s know as salad turnips. These white Oriental varieties with names like Shogoin & Hakurei are tender, delicious, and can even have a fruity-sweet taste.
Melissa’s organic parsnips have a mild celery aroma and a delightful, sweet, nutty flavor that can be enjoyed in recipes or alone. The best flavor comes when they are allowed to stay in the ground until after the first frost, which causes the root’s starch to covert to sugar, making them an ideal fall choice. Fresh parsnips will have a soft texture when cooked (don’t overcook them), old roots will be tough and bitter. They will keep for weeks stored in the fridge. Scrub don’t peel, as they’re packed with nutrition and low in calories. A 9” parsnip is high in fiber, and a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and Vitamins C and E, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
So root for your favorite team this fall and for these beauties when they come off the grill.