As frost commonly clings to the ground most mornings, only the hardiest of vegetables are available at the local farmer’s market. But the produce left in these late autumn days is often rich, flavorful and surprisingly sweet. Thank the cold nights that cause a surge of sugar in root vegetables that are ready to be plucked from the ground right about now.
Here’s the best that November has to offer:
Beets. Although we typically think of the a bulbous reddish-purple hued beet, this root vegetable comes in a variety of colors – white, golden yellow, even rainbow colored roots are available. Roast these beauties and the rough, crunchy veggie turns buttery soft. Add them to salads or go ahead and make them into a borscht. Beets are a powerhouse of antioxidants containing nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.
Carrots. A staple vegetable that many of us eat, carrots are becoming a lot more colorful these days. Purple, pink, yellow and orange carrots add a festive flair to your salads and roasted dishes. Available year round, carrots are at their best at this time of year thanks to a sugar surge from the cold nights. Best known for the nutrient that gives them their name – beta carotene – carrots have a wide array of other antioxidants that have shown to have cardiovascular benefits and anti-cancer benefits.
Chestnuts. We’ve all heard the Christmas song and are familiar with the idea of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but if you haven’t tried them, there is good reason to. Chestnuts have a texture like a baked potato and are the only nut that contains vitamin C. They grow from mid-fall to early-Spring, but are considered at their peak as the holiday season nears – which is why they’re associated with this time.
Cranberries. Another food commonly associated with the holidays, this water-grown berry is best when it isn’t in juice or jelly form, but rather whole with it’s skin. That’s where the most impressive nutrients are stored, shown to have both anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties in studies. Boil the berries down to make your own whole-berry sauce this Thanksgiving or add them to desserts for a delightful tartness. Personally, I like to throw a handful of them into apple crisps and pies for just a bit of pucker.
Leeks. Like onions and garlic, leeks belong to the Allium vegetable family and have the same nutritional properties as the other members. They maybe most famous in dips and in soups (think leek and potato soup), but they can also star in quiches, or be braised on their own.
Yams. Often confused with sweet potatoes, yams are a tuber all their own that is not even closely related to the potato it’s confused with. Long and cylindrical, yams are often sweeter and have a higher moisture content than the sweet potato. The confusion can be blamed on the USDA which allows the softer variety of sweet potatoes to be labeled as yams in stores. Searching for the real deal? Most international stores have true yams which are delicious mashed.