Roots are many things: diverse in nature, they can be personal, generational, physical, and natural. The word peppers our language, as in the phrases “root cause,” “root of the problem,” “putting down roots,” and being “rooted.” Roots conjure solidity, a firmness that is stable and secure.
As winter takes hold and pulls up its blanket over the earth, my thoughts turn to the sustainability of root vegetables and the root cellars where precious vegetables were stored in early America. Cool and dark, root cellars of generations past housed the late summer and fall harvest. Root cellars meant the difference between having enough to eat or not during the long, cold winter months. As squirrels and other animals prepared for winter, wise householders canned and preserved foods, gathered nuts, apples, and root vegetables for storage in the root cellar. Today the root cellar has given way to the modern pantry, but the intention to sustain and provide nutrition with root vegetables is the same.
Also known as tubers, root vegetables absorb most of their nutrients from the soil in which they root. Growers who practice good soil maintenance and conservation know this and offer consumers superior produce, rich in taste, vitamins, and minerals.
Starchy root vegetables like potatoes are high in fiber, complex carbs, and resistant starch that aids digestion and feeds good gut bacteria. The carrot alone is packed with health-enhancing carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein. The tubers onion, garlic, and shallot are all from the allium plant family, as are scallions, leeks, and chives.
They have strong antiviral and antibacterial properties along with folate and vitamins K and C. Familiar ginger and turmeric are rhizomes that sprout roots and are revered for their healing properties. All of these nutrients come together in Root Vegetable Soup, which you can enjoy all winter long.