Root veggies are winter comfort food


Olivia Jones, family and consumer sciences agent for N.C. Cooperative Extension in Camden and Currituck counties, makes Roasted Parmesan and Herb Sweet Potatoes.


By Olivia Jones
N.C. Cooperative Extension, Currituck

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The winter tends to be hard for those of us living in coastal communities. We snuggle up in our homes because it is too cold or windy to go outside. We gorge on comfort foods and take a break from watching what we eat because we can wear bigger clothes to hide our indiscretions. But there is a way to keep up with our diet, continue on our path of healthy habits, and still enjoy the fruits of the winter months.

The magical things that can help get us through the cold winter months are root vegetables. Now don’t “turnip” your noise because we are talking more than potatoes and carrots. Popular root vegetables include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, rutabaga, butternut squash, winter squash, or cassava (yuca).

Root vegetables can be delicious and there are a number of ways to cook them. They are great grilled, roasted, or mashed. You can cut them thin and make chips out of them. I love to make different kinds of fries with root vegetables. Some other really exciting ideas are to make hash, salad, or soup.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that we consume two and one-half servings of vegetables a day. In the winter months, it seems harder to meet these recommendations because all these wonderful vegetables are not sprouting up around us. However, hiding just under the ground are a plethora of delicious vegetables that can be a great addition to your winter diet and have many health benefits.

Root vegetables can help us reach our daily folate recommendations. In just a few medium sliced parsnips, you can get more than 20 percent of the daily folate recommendation. This B vitamin is essential for women who are trying to conceive, are pregnant, or breastfeeding. Folate helps to prevent neural tube defects in infants and it is recommended that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms a day.

If one of your new year's resolutions was to try a new/longer exercise routine, root vegetables could be your answer. According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2009, the nitrate contained in beet juice leads to an improved use of oxygen. Add eight ounces of beet juice a day to see improved performance at the gym, on the trails, or on the court. Another study found drinking the same amount daily significantly reduces blood pressure.

Tossing a cup of white turnip into the pot the next time we make a stew will give us one-third of the daily recommendation for vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps absorb iron and assists the body in making collagen for bones and cartilage.

Adding carrots to a winter soup or chicken pot pie will be taking advantage of an excellent source of beta-carotene. The body will convert this antioxidant into vitamin A, which promotes vision and bone growth. It also aids in the regulation of the body’s immune system.

The benefits of adding root vegetables to your diet are endless. I recommend giving them a try. There is a lot to be offered from these vegetables that modestly hide underground. If you want more ideas on how to use root vegetables and how to grow, then join us at NC Cooperative Extension, Currituck County Center for our Gardening and Cooking with Root Vegetables class which will be held Friday, Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. To register visit our website at currituck.ces.ncsu.edu. For more information about the class or about root vegetables contact Olivia Jones at olivia_jones@ncsu.edu or via phone at 252-232-2261.

Olivia Jones is family and consumer sciences agent for N.C. Cooperative Extension in Currituck County.


Carrot Risotto

Serves 4


1 cup chopped onion

1 cup arborio rice

2 tbsp. Butter

2 cups chicken stock

1 ½ cups diced carrot

¾ cup carrot juice

⅓ cup dry vermouth

½ cup grated parmesan

⅓ cup chopped mint


In a pot, cook onion and rice in butter over high heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the next 4 ingredients; boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring, 15 minutes. Stir in cheese and mint; season to taste.

Roasted Parmesan and Herb Sweet Potatoes

10 min Prep Time | 35 min Cook Time | 45 min Total Time


3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Parsley for garnish, if desired


Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly coat a large baking pan with non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Add diced potatoes and toss to coat. Spread potatoes in an even layer onto prepared pan. Bake for 32-35 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese and parsley if desired. Serve immediately.