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It’s January — and it’s time for the market!

Root vegetables from Juniper Hill (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Yes, our farmers’ market is still going strong every Saturday morning at the Hotel Saranac! In past years, the market closed at the end of December, but this year is different.

True, there are not as many farmers as in the summer. But there’s still plenty to buy!

Juniper Hill sells root vegetables, winter squash, red and green cabbages, and a few greens (grown in their greenhouses). Mace Chasm sells meat. Sugar House Creamery sells cheese. Small Town Cultures has cultured vegetables. There’s artisan bread and wine. New this week was the Biscotti Kitchen.

Berube Botanicals was there with soap, herbals and jewelry. There were some artisans: Stirring Creations had sculpted stone wares as well as soap and shampoo. YB Wild Pottery showcased their clay creations.  

Seasonal produce right now is all about roots — and Juniper Hill had many to choose from!  Potatoes, onions, garlic, leeks, carrots, beets, turnips, watermelon radish, celeriac, sweet potatoes… and probably some I’ve forgotten.

These subterranean delights look rough, dirty, gnarled and knotty. Inside are rich flavors: some sweet, like beets and carrots; other sharp, like onions; pungent, like turnips; or mild, like celeriac and potatoes.

These brightly hued roots are designed to store energy in the form of carbohydrates; they vary in the amounts of sugars and starches that they contain, with beets being the highest in sugar, while potato and cassava are highest in complex carbohydrates.

They offer a wealth of nutrients. They’re excellent sources of fiber and vitamins, including important antioxidants. The yellow roots like carrots and sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, while others supply folic acid and vitamin C. Betacyanin, the dye responsible for the bright crimson color of red beets, is a powerful cancer preventative. The allium vegetables, like leeks and onions, are known to prevent colorectal cancers and are good for heart health.

They act as a conduit to transport minerals from the soil into the growing plant. They provide potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.  Beets and potatoes are particularly high in potassium, a mineral important to regulating the cardiovascular system.

Root vegetables have been a traditional winter staple for generations. They have a fairly long shelf life if kept in a cool place, so they were used for winter sustenance in northern regions. Before refrigeration, most houses had root cellars that provided cool, moist yet frost-free conditions to store vegetables. The dampness in root cellars kept vegetables from drying out and shriveling up (as they do in the modern refrigerator).

Root vegetables add their hearty goodness to everything from soups to salads, side dishes, appetizers, even Sunday roast. They’re delectable, and make hearty fare to help you shake off the blues on blustery fall days. Try them in Indian curries or Oriental stir-fries. Mix and match them to create varied flavors and textures.

Look for roots that are firm, not too large, and with smooth skin. Be sure to peel or scrub them well, as they’re coated with sand and (unless you buy organic) they absorb pesticides and residual chemicals from the soil. Try eating them raw with a dip, or grate raw into salads and slaws. Cook whole or cut up; the smaller the chunks, the faster they will cook. They go well with butter or olive oil, and various herbs and spices: basil, parsley, dill, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, cumin and curry are all good choices. Most are great roasted, with salt, herbs & olive oil.

Roasted Roots

Ingredients:

1 large or 2 small carrots

1 or 2 parsnips

2 small turnips

Piece of celery root

1 or 2 potatoes

1 or 2 onions

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 Tablespoons cooking oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon basil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 9-inch-by13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Prepare vegetables. You want about 6 cups diced. You will need to peel some (like celery root and onion) and scrub others (like carrots). Cut potatoes, celery root and turnips into one-inch chunks, carrots and parsnips into one-inch lengths, onion into wedges. Place in large mixing bowl, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and a little pepper and mix well to coat (hands work best). Combine 2 Tablespoons oil with 1 clove crushed garlic and 1/2 teaspoon basil. Sprinkle vegetables with the oil mixture, and mix to coat again.

Arrange in single layer in baking pan and roast. Check and stir every 20 minutes or so, adding liquid if needed, until cooked through so that a fork goes in easily. It should take about an hour oven time. Serve hot, garnished with fresh herbs like basil, parsley or dill. Makes about five one-cup servings.

Root vegetable slaw

Ingredients:

1/2 lemon

1/2 large celery root (about 1 cup shredded)

1 apple, diced

1 or 2 carrots (about 1 cup shredded)

2 – 3 Tablespoons fresh parsley

1 Tablespoon mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon sour cream

Directions:

Squeeze lemon into bowl; remove seeds. Peel and grate the celery root in food processor or with a large hand grater, and coat immediately with lemon to prevent it from browning. Core and dice the apple, and add, again coating with lemon. Wash or peel the carrots, grate, and add. Chop the parsley fine, and fold in along with mayonnaise and sour cream. Serves two to three.

Make this salad first, as it needs to stand for at least 30 minutes while you make the rest of dinner to blend flavors.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com or on Facebook as Author

Yvona Fast.