They’re weird-looking, they’re dirty, and for a long time, nobody wanted anything to do with them.
But much like awkward teenagers, root vegetables clean up well and their positive attributes shine through. Over the past few years, they’ve even become popular.
Five to 10 years ago, local produce distributor Tenley Weaver of Good Food-Good People couldn’t unload products such as turnips, parsnips and celeriac in Southwest Virginia. Even customers who had heard of those veggies weren’t sure how to prepare them or whether they would like them.
But thanks to the local food movement and experimental chefs, root vegetables are now en vogue. During the winter, when high-demand crops such as summer squash, tomatoes and green beans are finished in Virginia, we still can find three major categories of produce at farmers markets, in farm-share baskets and at local food restaurants: greens, winter squash and root vegetables.
Celeriac (aka celery root) has been offered by Good Food-Good People for five years, but Weaver said that first year she probably couldn’t sell 100 pounds of it. This year, she contracted with local farmers to grow 2,000 pounds.
“I was a bit nervous that I exceeded public demand,” she said, “but they are really moving.”
It probably helps that diners are tasting delicious preparations of root vegetables at local restaurants or are seeing more sophisticated recipes in print or online. Gone are the days of simply peeling and boiling root veggies and plopping them on a plate (although some folks still enjoy them that way, too).
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Do you like root veggies? If so, what is your favorite and how do you like them prepared?
Click these links to see recipes:
Cassoulet with Root Vegetables (from Bruno Silva, chef/owner, The Landing, Bruno’s GastroPub and Bruno’s GastroTruck)
Roasted Roots with Honey Dijon Dressing (from Chris Parkhurst, chef/owner, Firefly Fare)