5 Intimidating Vegetables and How to Prepare Them

If you frequent the farmer’s market or decided to invest in a CSA share this year, the vegetables and fruits you’re finding are probably starting to get a bit starchier as the fall season sets in. What was once an abundance of beans, summer squash and zucchini, herbs, strawberries and blueberries, peas, and various lettuces has turned into acorn, butternut and other winter squashes, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and…kohlrabi? Celeriac? Parsnips? Kale and beets may be a little more familiar, but when it comes to preparing them, what are you supposed to do? (Note that what you find is determined by the growing seasons where you live…you likely won’t find okra in September in Wisconsin!) Celeriac…sounds intimidating, right? If you’re familiar with celery root, it’s the same thing. It has a delicate celery flavor that is slightly sweet and nutty, too. The exterior looks rough and intimidating, which is probably why it’s ignored and underestimated, but once it’s peeled you can shred it in salads or add it to slaws (since you’re likely seeing cabbage at the market or finding it in your CSA share, too). It can be boiled and mashed with potatoes (be sure to add a lot of butter and cream if you can do dairy!), or cubed and added to soups. Don’t be afraid to try it! If it doesn’t work out, at least you can dazzle people with your celeriac story at upcoming holiday parties. Kohlrabi and I did not start out on the right foot. The first time I tried it, I had just been in a car for 20-some hours straight. I was exhausted, hangry, and meeting my college sweetheart’s mother for the first time. She presented us with a plate of kohlrabi, cubed, with lemon juice and cayenne pepper sprinkled liberally on top. If you read my story documenting my PFC journey, you’ll see that around this time, iceberg lettuce was about the only vegetable I was eating. But, because of the situation I was in, I forced myself to eat it. Gross. Now, fast forward 8 years and I can tell you that roasted kohlrabi is an absolute treat. Peel the outside and cut it into bite sized pieces (I mix sweet potatoes with it too!), toss with olive oil and sea salt, spread them on a baking sheet and roast ‘em till they’re caramelized. Yum. Parsnips are a little more familiar than either celeriac or kohlrabi, but what exactly are they? They are those white carrots you see in September/October at the farmers market and in your CSA box…only they are not at all like carrots. Unlike the sweet, crunchy, and tasty raw snack that is the carrot, parsnips are definitely not meant to be eaten raw. Once they are peeled and cooked (either by simmering in soups, roasting on a baking sheet or baked in a casserole) they become sweet and nutty. Try peeling and cutting them into one inch pieces, then boiling them and mashing them with some cooked sweet potatoes (again, with lots of butter!). Or, you can cut both parsnips and carrots into strips, toss them with olive oil and sea salt, and roast them on a baking sheet. The nuttiness of the parsnips and the sweetness of the carrots go very well together! Beets may be a little more in your comfort zone. You see them on restaurant menus, so people must like them enough, right? They are naturally sweet like the carrot—they’re delicious roasted with olive oil (and if you want to be a little naughty, add a bit of maple syrup to your olive oil before you toss them in it), peeled and salted and eaten as a side. Or boil, peel, and have them as a cold salad with a sour cream and dill sauce. Beets are definitely nothing to be intimidated by…although if people pop in while you’re prepping them, they may be intimidated by you if you’re holding a knife and covered in beet juice, as they can be a bit “messy” (as in wear rubber gloves while chopping and removing the skin if you don’t want to look like you were involved in a crime, because the juice will stain your hands...for days!). If your kids like carrots, they will probably like beets, so introduce them! They’re also full of phytonutrients, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Eat up! Kale is the final vegetable I’ll touch on. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome this vegetable can be if you prepare it right (both because of its taste and texture, and because of the nutrient punch it packs). I wouldn’t recommend diving into a raw kale salad (unless it's Cassie's Sweet Kale Salad—as seen on TV!) as it can be bitter and harsh for those who aren’t already dabbling in the dark greens, but try peeling the leaves off of the thick stem, chopping them into bite sized pieces, and adding a few handfuls to the next pot of soup you cook. The kale will soften quite a bit, but still hold some of its texture. If you’re making a soup that calls for pasta, omit the processed pasta and add a few handfuls of kale instead. Another option is chopping, blanching, and draining it, then adding a few tablespoons of coconut oil (which will melt and taste delish on the kale), some fresh garlic, and a few teaspoons of Braggs Liquid Aminos or tamari. If you see any of these veggies at the farmer’s market, expand your repertoire by trying them out! If they came in your CSA share, don’t throw them in the crisper until they’re limp and fuzzy; you have several suggestions and no excuses not to try them now! :) What are your favorite fall seasonal veggies or fruits and how do you like to prepare them? Are you going to try dabbling in any of the above veggies now that you know a little bit more? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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