winter root vegetables

winter root vegetables are still here.

We have roasted and boiled, pickled and pureed, shaved and grated, slivered and sliced. Gratins, mashes, salads, and eaten out of hand. We have done everything we can with winter root vegetables.


We have been good and patient. We grab our vegetables every week from the farmers’ market, with the occasional foray to PCC or a local store for something else in season, late in the week. We would never think of eating corn or raspberries in the middle of winter. We eat what the farmers dig up and hand to us in sleet or slushy snow. We enjoy this.

But March? Oh March, you are the hardest month. In December, the first parsnips excited us. Yippee! Look, they’re back. Last week, the Chef said to me, “I don’t think I can do it. I can’t eat one more parsnip.” But we did. And still smiled as we cooked.

However, when we saw a tiny bag of miner’s lettuce last week, on the forlornly empty table of Foraged and Found, we pounced on it, even if it did cost $6. We ate it all week, trailing green stems for small salads, just so we could eat something besides a root with our dinner.

It’s hard to imagine, but asparagus is coming.

It snowed in Seattle today. We’re not done with this yet. I give it at least four weeks before all the stands at the market are back, peeping with greens.

And so, we trudge forward, begrudgingly loving what is in front of us.

I could use some more inspiration. What are you doing with winter root vegetables?

p.s. If you need a little lift of spring, take a look at the April issue of Martha Stewart Living. There’s a big spread on living gluten-free, with three vividly photographed recipes (chocolate cake with pink frosting!), and a little piece written by…me. This was more unexpected delight than I could say. It almost makes me grateful for parsnips again.

46 comments on “winter root vegetables

  1. -m

    May I recommend this kale recipe as a temporary remedy? I just used nice balsamic vinegar, but next time I’m trying my orange muscat vinegar.

    It’s lovely and crunchy and green… just like the spring that is coming.

  2. Redhead

    This is not exactly a root vegetable either: sauerkraut! We make sauerkraut soup at home almost every other weekend in winter. My version is v. bare bones – pearl barley is a traditional addition, or boiled/ baked potatoes served alongside.

    Fry cubed pancetta (or similar lightly smoked streaky pork) along with onions and carrots, add sauerkraut, splosh in the wine, wait until it boils off, add stock and simmer for slightly less than 1 hr. Bay leaf and herbes de Provence are my choice of seasoning. Eat with sour cream. Even better the next day when it has got time to get properly – eh, soured!

    Sauerkraut contains surprisingly large amounts of vit C… the taste is v. Eastern Europe, comforting and good.

  3. beyond

    i roast almost all root vegetables, sometimes on the stove top, sometimes in the oven, with olive oil and sea salt and pepper, sometimes onion and garlic, sometimes with a splash of balsamic.
    last week i bought some asparagus from mexico. i was desperate.
    so i have nothing for you. i want spring to come.

  4. Ricki

    I subscribe to the magazine and was randomly flipping through when I saw the cake and thought, “Hmm, that looks nice.” Then I checked the author, and–whoo hoo!! Congratulations, Shauna, that’s amazing! It must have been sooooo exciting to go through the process: getting the gig, writing it, submission, acceptance–and of course YOUR NAME IN MARTHA STEWART LIVING!! I bet they were a dream to work with. The cake sounds great, too. So fabulous! 🙂

  5. Gemma

    I roast beetroot and squash and mix it with feta and chickpeas for an easy packed lunch. I make vets of root vegetable soup to freeze in one or two person portions. I eat cumin spiced carrots with harissa chicken and couscous. But just your mention of asparagus has made me long for May.

  6. Erika

    Here’s the joke my husband came up with at the farmer’s market last weekend:

    Q: What do you call it when you’re depressed because there’s nothing but turnips and potatoes at the farmer’s market?

    A: Seasonal affective eating disorder.

    Um, groan.

  7. cwood127

    Wait a minute, I thought you didn’t like Martha? Good to see you’ve come around to the Awesome Power of Martha.

  8. jbeach

    I love a root veg pot pie. mmm, with some GF biscuits on top, I think it warms the soul.
    NYC March is wonky, too. Snow storm last week, then mid 60’s for this past weekend, now back to 30’s and 40’s…
    I long for rhubarb and asparagus!!

    Will definitely be buying MSL today after work! Excited to read your piece! Congratulations!!

  9. La Niña

    The beets go on… so do the potatoes. I wonder how potatoes mashed with grated beets sprinkled with fresh chives (the chives are growing again) and topped with some sour cream would taste? It certainly would be a wild color… kind of that Pepto Bismol pink. Could be the ticket to the dreary winter blues.

    But I just ordered my spring seeds and potatoes and planted my tomato seeds inside on Sunday. There is hope.

  10. Zoomie

    Sadly, I have no good ideas – my latest winter veggie invention was inedible… heavy sigh…

  11. Anonymous

    Okay, I feel like an idiot but I don’t see the spread in MSL about gluten free cooking that you mentioned. Can you provide a link?

  12. milhan

    Pureed root vegetable soup – I make gallons of it during the winter.

    We've been eating a lot of kale & chard too this winter. Chard & Bean soup, and kale chips (I will never tire of those!).

  13. Sasha

    I grate raw beets and carrots on top of salad or marinate them (raw and grated, again) with a little oil, vinegar, sesame seeds and pickled ginger. Fresh, tangy summer flavors. Also, I saute garlic, apple slices and kale until its bright green and just tender.

  14. Crystal

    We roast squash (delicata or butternut), carrots, brussel sprouts, beets, etc. in various combinations with olive oil/salt/pepper/a splash of grade B maple syrup.

    My trick is to roast at about 350 until cooked through, and then turn off the oven and leave the veggies in it — they get lovely caramelized edges.

    I also love to cook carrots with orange juice and honey on the stovetop until tender.

  15. Erin

    I have been eating so seasonally that for the first time in my life I am sick to death of root veggies. Bring on spring!

  16. rebelgirl7

    Lets see……….

    Butternut squash soup
    Parsnip soup and served with your favourite GF bread.
    Potato salad……any variation
    Beetroot salad…raw beets grated and added to grated apple, raisins and mixed with olive oil or a french dressing.

  17. Anonymous

    Stirfried kale and tofu, rolled in a warm GF tortilla.

    Sauerkraut in various forms; green, red, with an admixture of match-sticked and stir-fried carrots, with bits of crisply fried bacon or sliced sausage, poached in chicken broth.

    Rotkohl — red cabbage cooked with onions and apples.

    A Welsh family recipe involving steamed parsnips, turnips, and carrots mashed together with butter and salt and a dash of nutmeg.

    Including leeks and shiitake in the root vegetables for some extra richness.

    Spring is almost here!

  18. Anna Lee

    I really like to make Stone Soup with my kids with root veggies at the end of winter. It makes the veggies taste better, and we have a lot of fun doing it. We also get new versions of the story from the Library from time to time. We have a rock that looks just like a small brown potato that we have scrubbed and put through the dishwasher, and we use a lot of roots (potatoes, onion, carrot, parsnips, etc…). It ends up being basically a potato bacon creamy soup. MMM

  19. Jessica Waters

    this is a long-time favorite from mary Estella’s Natural Foods Cookbook:

    best braised red cabbage (YUM!!)
    serves 4 or more
    2 large onions, thinly sliced
    1 small red cabbage (approx. 6 cups thinly sliced)
    oil, salt, water
    2-3 T vinegar

    preheat oven to 375F

    In a large pot, heat oil and saute the onion until it becomes clear and sweet-smelling. Add the red cabbage and sprinkle with sea salt.

    Stir until the cabbage wilts (adding more oil if needed)

    Mix vinegar in 1/2 c water, pour over cabbage and stir well.(vinegar keeps the cabbage red)

    Spoon cabbage mix into a buttered baking dish, cover and bake for 1 hr. Serve hot or cold. Dish will keep in fridge for 3-4 days.

    You can add apples, raisins, caraway seeds, chopped nuts and/or carrots.

    You can subsitute green cabbage for the red and/or apples for the onions.

    This is soooooo good! and so EASY.

  20. abetterjulie

    What a great thread. Our cooperative pickings are definitely getting slim, and we are all struggling to keep it tasty! Congrats on your article, that is something that should make you very proud!
    We do a lot of soups. *she says as she eats her lentil soup*

  21. Kristin

    How about a carrot TIMBALE ? I didn’t even know what a “timbale” was until about 5 years ago when I was served one and a whole new world of decadent vegetable treats opened up to me … they’re a little over-the-top but fun once in awhile.

  22. UmaShezOya

    Just finished your book, still assimilating it all in my head, heart and body….
    just wanted to say Thank You SOOO very much for taking the time to put all that down on paper, I know it will have a profound influence on my life (and I suspect the lives of many). Your candor and honesty are amazing.
    Hugs from CT Sherrie

  23. Red Freckles

    Yeah I wish I could eat local all the time also. Give yourself props for at least doing it most the year. You’re still making a huge impact on the environment and our economy.

  24. Jenn Sutherland

    I’m with you on the desire for spring! I started my own blog last fall, and I think the process of coming up with new dishes all the time has made winter more bearable for me…but then, that’s old hat to you. 🙂

    We’ve been doing a lot of different bean soups lately, as we’ve burned out on roots, too. Black bean with spicy chicken sausage, white been green chile chili, spicy lentil tomato soup, a cheater’s cassoulet…they all mostly have some roots in them, but it mixes things up a bit. And of course I’m looking for any excuse to eat more Rancho Gordo beans!

  25. Not Another Omnivore

    My Aunt recommended your blog to me. I don’t have Celiac, but I’m a nutrition student and am interested in all of this stuff. I just got done doing some skimming and I look forward to reading your blog.

    And your header is amazingly beautiful.


  26. Anonymous

    The Pacific NW is a great place to have a winter garden, which goes a long way towards eating local fresh stuff in the dark months… my garden has beautiful siberian kale leafing out now with longer days and more light. I cut in into long thin slices for a crunchy sweet addition to raw salads. Soon they will put out flowering shoots which are kissing cousins to broccoli raab and also sweetly delicious. When they bloom, the yellow flowers are sprinkled on salads. I also have some overwintering mache aka corn salad, a low growing rosette of soft, mild-tasting greens that go in winter salads. Later in the spring, they too will bloom with tiny pale blue flowers that go in salads or will seed next year’s crop if left to ripen.

    It’s my intention and my pleasure to have something in my garden I can add to a salad any day of the year, and even with this year’s blizzards, the kale and mache survived and thrived.

    And, I adore roasted beet salad with a splash of orange muscat vinegar, olive oil, feta (I know I know, it’s been done but it’s delicious), sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts.

  27. Ceri

    Well it isn’t a side dish to go with diner but I make beet bread or root veggie bread. I use a standard zucchini bread recipe (GF of course), grate up beets and carrots then add double the volume of veggies called for in the recipe. I always double the volume of zucchini when I make zucchini bread because most recipes call for too little if you are trying to get rid of a bountiful summer harvest.

    Also since beets and carrots are so sweet I drop the sugar in the recipe to almost nothing (0-1/2 cup in a 9×13 pan). In a 9×13 pan I am using 2lbs of beets. My zucchini bread recipe has chocolate chips so it is definitely quite sweet.

  28. Anonymous

    Yegads, I totally understand the way the root vegetables become so unappealing by late Winter. I am also in Seattle and visit the U-district market weekly to bring home more carrots/beets/parsnips. I need to remember this feeling, bottle it up and use it to motivate myself to get out to the P-patch plot and plant greens in february under a cover so I can get a jump start on fresh greens!

  29. Lauren Denneson

    I am in the same camp, I think. I’ve done so much with winter root veggies and I can’t wait for food to be “in season” again. I’ve moved on to making Asian-inspired dishes with broccoli slaw and snow peas, regardless of their ‘season.’ I’ve made lots of Mexican-inspired dishes with beans and rice. I’m ready for Spring.

  30. Danika

    i like to roast with different spices. your basic staples of olive oil, salt, and pepper, but then add a tablespoon or so of a curry powder mix. thats my fav right now!

  31. elizabeth a.

    It’s no coincidence that Lent begins in late February and runs (usually) through March. This is the time when root cellars are empty. Fasting, or some version of it, wasn’t an option through most of history in northern climates. We eat these days out of an unnatural abundance, and we suffer for it, not only physically, but spiritually.

  32. Dolores

    Last night I´ve recived the last issue of Living and I read your piece… congrats!!! it looks great! (but honestly, I prefer your blog with your wonderful stories and tons of recipes.. ah! and the videos of the Chef!!!)

  33. Cate

    i’m actually sort of enjoying this last burst of parsnips, kind of like the last five minutes of a run. because after new vegetables come in, a parsnip will not cross my threshold for many moons.

    that said, we’ve been roasting them with carrots and whatever else, doused in a maple syrup-rosemary-garlic glaze. completely delicious.

  34. Gluten free Kay

    I found some Cortland applesauce and yellow tomato sauce hiding in my freezer. The lettuce starts in the basement greenhouse are leafing out. I think I might make it until Spring!

  35. Anonymous

    Simple. Baked sweet potato. By itself. The last one I had was divine–it oozed in the places where I had stuck it with a fork. The ooze caramelized on the skin and the whole thing was so sweet.

    I love all the winter root veggies but look forward to the new season’s bounty which is easily available in my area (Portland). And it’s great to eat locally grown food. But I don’t get down on myself if I eat something out of season or not local. And most of the staples I eat don’t grow anywhere near Oregon. Rice? This year, I could probably grow it in my saturated garden, but not usually. Quinoa? Peru, some from the US and Canada. GF pasta? Canada. Or Italy. Pinto beans? Colorado. EVOO? California is about as local to me as it gets. Salt? Chocolate? Coffee? In fact all most of us can do is get our veggies and fruit from local producers. But that’s OK. We don’t have to be purists–we can still have an impact by choosing carefully and doing our best.

    Daffodils were blooming today in a sheltered row on the south side of my office building!

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