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Knowing Your Roots For Nurture

Sep 1, 2008
The roots of nurture are our root vegetables and gourds. They are stable comfort foods as fall and winter approaches. We no longer crave the cooling fruits of trees; instead, we long for the warming fruits of the earth. When we go to the farmers market or the produce store, we can now find a vast and wonderful selection of root vegetables and weird looking winter squashes. They're rich in sweetness, fiber, and nutrients, all of which help contribute to them being rich in satisfaction.

Root vegetables.

To be a true root, the vegetable needs to grow underground and play the role of a root for a plant, which means absorbing moisture and nutrients from the ground. Generally the term "root" is used for any underground part of a plant that we eat. Even though onions and leeks are both related, we would call an onion a root vegetable but not a leek, since leeks grow above ground.

More on root vegetables:

Root vegetables include beets, burdock, faikon, carrots, horseradish, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, salsify, and turnips
Bulbs are the part of a plant that grow underground. Examples of this are onions and garlic
Corms are underground stems that grow vertically. Celeriac, taro, and water chestnuts are corms (even though water chestnuts grow underwater, not underground). Corms store starch for the plant.
Rhizomes are stems that grow horizontally underground. Roots grow off the rhizomes and the parts of the plant that will appear above ground. Ginger and turmeric are rhizomes.
Tubers are underground stems. They grow in thickness instead of length. Sweet potatoes, yams, and other potatoes are tubers.

Root vegetables have never been very fashionable, but they're winning over new fans because of their nourishing value and comfort-food appeal. Almost all root vegetables need to be cooked, so they require more effort (read: time), which often makes them more of a rare treat than a stable daily food.

Gourds or winter squash.

Gourds include pumpkin, winter squash, and all the warty, odd-shaped, decorative plants we see this time of year. Squash is the fruit of the gourd family. It originated in the western hemisphere and was consumed by man at least 5,000 years ago, probably even earlier. Winter squash, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash is firmer in the flesh and has a thick skin. Winter squash requires longer cooking than other vegetables, but it can be cooked and eaten with the skin. Some prefer to carve out the meat inside when eating them.

They keep well in a cool dark place for up to a month and should not be refrigerated. When choosing your squash, look for a bright, firm skin, free of bruises.

Steaming, boiling, sauteeing, roasting, and baking are all great ways to prepare both roots and squashes. They also do very well in stews, soups, and cooked in with beans.

Nourishing Values.

Root vegetables and squash are good sources of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as niacin, potassium, copper, magnesium, folic acid, iron, phosphorus and pantothenic acid (the values vary for each). Those especially deep in color contain the health-promoting antioxidants known as phytochemicals. Take the beta carotene, for example, found in the deep orange of carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.

"Like most vegetables, roots are low in calories, with about ten to sixty per half-cup serving, and contain negligible amounts of fat," reports Dr. Jennifer L. Wilkins, a nutritionist at Cornell University. "Many root vegetables are good sources of fiber, providing one to four grams per half cup."

Most plants have specific medicinal benefits, such as St. John's Wort, which is mainly used to treat depression, but root vegetables in general have a broad range of uses.

Ginger, for example, is effective for digestive ailments, arthritis, and motion sickness. Garlic has many therapeutic benefits; it acts as an effective anti-bacterial compound, as an anti-carcinogen, and it reduces high cholesterol and improves blood circulation. Like carrots and burdock, it is considered a "protective" food.

Natural remedies have dominated health care for thousands of years. The primary source was non-toxic whole foods and should still continue to be. Following are some medicinal applications of some of the roots:

Radishes benefit the digestive tract by aiding in the excretion of harmful toxins
The juice of red potatoes helps to alleviate stomach ulcers
Burdock assists in the elimination of uric acid
Parsnips are valued for their strong anti-carcinogens
Beets promote liver, kidney, and spleen function
Onions contain anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agents

So go find your roots. They're comfort just like home.
About the Author
Food and Nourishment Counselor Jeanette Bronee from the Path for Life SelfNourishment Center, supports people in change. She teaches about food and self-caring habits and is an upbeat non-dogmatic resource, inspiration, and support when you want to find your path to new food choices and lifestyle habits that take better care of you. Visit us at our website which is at http://www.pathforlife.com
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