As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, this is a great time to start thinking about fresh, local produce and what is in season. Buying local produce can be a great way to get involved in your community, build a stronger relationship with where your food comes from, and can be more fun than just a traditional trip to the grocery store!
Some produce that starts to come into season in March are beets, rutabaga and maple syrup. Beets can come in many shapes, sizes and colors. There are golden beets that are a bright golden orange color, bull’s blood beets that are the traditional deep purple color, and even Chioggia beets that have a red and white striped pattern on the inside. The greens and roots of beets can be eaten raw or cooked and are excellent sources of potassium, vitamin A, and magnesium.
Rutabagas are also root vegetables that can have a purple and white outer color like the American purple top rutabaga or be green and white like the collet vert rutabaga. Rutabagas can be used as a substitute for turnips in most recipes and are a great source of potassium and vitamin C.
Some ideas of how to prepare beets and rutabagas include pickling thin slices, grating beets raw on a salad and using the greens in place of spinach, pureeing rutabaga to add to mashed potatoes, or roasting them in the oven. Beets and rutabagas will keep for two to four weeks in the refrigerator.
Another root vegetable that starts to come around in April is carrots. Similarly to beets, carrots can come in a variety of fun colors including purple, yellow, white and red. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, but also contain vitamin B6 and vitamin K. Did you know that just one serving of carrots can contain over 100 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin A? Vitamin A is crucial for vision, fighting infections and for promoting growth and development so it is important to include in your diet.
Carrots can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, roasted, or cooked into soups or stews. To help your carrots last longer in storage, try trimming the greens before putting them away and keep them away from fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, or potatoes as these foods give off ethylene gas that can cause carrots to become bitter and go bad quickly. Carrots can keep in the fridge for one to three weeks, and wrapping them in a paper towel to protect them from condensation can help them to keep for even longer.
For beets and carrots, if you wash them well, there is no need to peel them unless the skin looks aged or damaged. If you do decide to peel them, consider saving the peels to make into a vegetable stock along with carrot greens and other vegetable scraps. To prepare rutabagas, the skin must be removed as it is typically coated in wax after harvesting to keep them from drying out.
Maple syrup comes into season in March as the warm temperatures cause the sap in maple trees to flow. Maple syrup comes in shades of amber ranging from light to dark. The lighter syrup typically is from when the sap first starts to flow and the darker syrup has a more robust flavor, but both are the same quality and have the same sugar content. Maple syrup is great on pancakes and waffles, but can also be used for many more delicious dishes. Consider adding maple syrup into salad dressings to help balance the acids or stir it into your morning coffee as a flavorful replacement for sugar.
Maple-Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves 4 (serving size: about 3/4 cup)
4 ounces quartered shallots
1 1/2 cups carrots, diagonally cut
1 1/2 cups golden beet (wedged)
1 1/2 cups rutabaga (wedged)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place shallots, carrots, rutabaga wedges and golden beet wedges on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Add maple syrup, rosemary, salt, and pepper; stir well to combine. Bake for 10 minutes or until tender.
The Keene Sentinel, the Monadnock United Way and Impact Monadnock Business Ambassadors are partnering to boost literacy for the youngest among us and, as a bonus, give a lift to local news literacy, too. Between now and March 31, you can get a digital subscription to The Sentinel for $2.99 a week and with it comes a StartSmart™ package of durable board books for children 0 to 5.
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