Root Vegetable Renaissance

| September/October 2004

Have you been ignoring your roots? Now’s the time to repair your relationship with these often-ignored vegetables. At the turn of the century, Americans ate roots in abundance, but with the advent of fast food, these sustaining staples fell out of favor. Nowadays, many young people are unable to name more than one or two root vegetables (see “Recognize that Root?” on Page 48). Who knows what wisdom is waning as a result?

Rooting for Roots

What’s so great about roots? Consider the lowly root: It provides stability and a tether to our good Earth. From a strictly symbolic standpoint, without roots, we tip over, feel awry, uprooted and ungrounded. We become lost in upward and outward energy. If we want our feet firmly planted, we must reconnect with the primal energy of Mother Earth. What better time to do this reconnecting than autumn, when leaves fall and we herald the harvest?

A plant’s roots draw water and minerals from the soil to nourish and sustain its leaves. They regulate water and mineral movement and keep crucial fluids flowing. Roots store energy collected by the leaves, slowly releasing it to fuel growth, activity and reproduction for plants. During a long, cold winter, the underground portion of a plant stores vital energy after the leaves die back, allowing the plant to regenerate in the spring.

Might some of these same benefits be bestowed upon those who feast on these fruits? I like to think of roots as fertilizer for thought, nourishment for the next project, rations for regeneration and batteries for bolstering our bodies and minds inside and out. And even if this metaphor isn’t strictly true, the sheer scrumptiousness and nutritional value of roots make them worth our time.

What’s in a Root?

From a nuts-and-bolts standpoint, roots provide carbohydrates, minerals (such as potassium and phosphorus), small amounts of iron, vitamin C, fiber, plant chemicals and a cornucopia of carotenoids beyond beta-carotene. One cup of turnip or rutabaga supplies as much vitamin C as one grapefruit or half an orange.

Volume for volume and calorie for calorie, roots supply more nutrients and fewer calories than grains. Their soluble fiber can make your belly feel more satisfied, aid weight loss and keep you regular. Using root vegetables as a replacement for grain adds vibrant colors, textures and flavors to meals. One or two daily doses of roots may lessen your desire for sweets, provided you pair them with ample protein and friendly fats and oils on your plate.

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