Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Minestrone

The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets

Where I live, the summers can be unbearable. We don't get snow, and, on the rare occasion it flurries, people will rush outside to stare in wonder, attempting to create a snowball out of the slushy stuff. What the heck, I do it, too, despite having spent my childhood and a small portion of my adulthood living in states where the weather was described by locals as *Winter and July*. I don't miss the snow much, but have to admit that new layer of white on the ground can be breathtakingly beautiful!

Despite the fact that where I live now, we can sometimes be found wearing shorts in the winter, those days that dip toward freezing invite a fire in the fireplace, curling up with nice hot cuppa and a good book, and something warm and yummy for the tummy.

Winter Minestrone

Olive oil
One onion, chopped
One large carrot, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
One turnip, peeled and diced
One rutabaga, peeled and diced
One bunch collards, rolled and sliced
Two cans diced tomatoes
One can garbanzo beans, drained
One can kidney beans, drained
One quart water
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion, carrot, celery, turnip, rutabaga and collards, until a little softenened and brightly colored. Add the tomatoes and beans. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce to simmer about 30 minutes. Season to taste.

This makes a very mild, but filling, soup in a very short time. Serve with a good bread for dipping and enjoy!

Before becoming vegan, I never ate turnips or rutabagas. No reason other than when I was eating a meat-based diet, there was little variety. We tended to stick to the tried and true, rather than seek out new and different foods to experience. Now I look for things I haven't tried. It has been like a new world of food has opened up to me! Sad, really, to make that realization. I watch non-vegans now, and how they are so hesitant to try new things. I don't mean exotic foods, I'm talking vegetables, like okra or turnips or fennel or eggplant. As for me and mine, we savor each new dish, each new ingredient, finding varieties of ways to use them - and are having a blast doing it! Cooking has once again become an adventure, and never a chore.

A "true" root vegetable should meet two conditions: grow underground and play the role of a root for the plant, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the ground. The following vegetables are examples of true root vegetables: carrots, horseradish, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, salsify, and turnips. They are actually the taproot of the plant, which is formed from the very first root that the seed put out.

Generally, though, the term is used for any underground part of a plant that we eat. Even though onions and leeks are both related, we would call an onion a root vegetable but not a leek, as leeks grow aboveground.

Root vegetables have never been very fashionable. Throughout history, they were largely seen as peasant food.

Before there was agriculture, there was the turnip. That’s how old the turnip is. Turnips were cultivated some 5,000 years ago and may have been eaten as long as 5,000 years before that. Turnips were as important to the Romans as potatoes were to the Incas. Believe it or not, the venerable tradition of the “Jack o’ Lantern” started out with turnips, not pumpkins.

All turnips have a snowy white flesh. The differences in varieties mostly involve outside coloring and size. Some have reddish rings around the crown of the vegetable, others purple. Flavors are essentially the same although larger turnips (3 or more inches in diameter) which appear later in the winter tend to be more pungent than the smaller (11/2 to 2 inches) turnips that appear earlier in the season. Major turnip varieties include Purple top, White Globe, White Egg, Golden Ball, Amber and Yellow Amberdeen.

A 3.5 ounce serving (100 grams) of turnips has 30 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram each of protein and dietary fiber, 60% of the Daily Values (formerly the RDA) for vitamin C, 2% for iron and 3% for calcium. Turnips are also a fair source of potassium and folic acid.

The history of the rutabaga is much shorter, but a little livelier! In the early part of the 17th century, Swiss botanist Casper Bauhin crossed a cabbage with a turnip and got a rutabaga, sometimes called a yellow turnip. It became popular in northern Europe and, in fact, derives its name from the Swedish rotabagge. (Rutabagas are sometimes called swedes.) Rutabagas were adopted by the British in the early 1800s as economical cannonballs. Although they did not pack the same explosive force as cannonballs they made quite an impression. This practice was discontinued when the Brits noticed their foes cooking the spent rutabagas in their soups.

Instead of white flesh, rutabagas have a yellow-orange flesh that, like yellow-flesh potatoes, give an impression of richness or butteriness. They’re also sweeter and denser than turnips with less moisture. On the outside rutabagas are half yellow-orange, while the other half is burgundy or purple. To increase their shelf life, most rutabagas are waxed. Commercially available rutabagas tend to be larger than turnips. The three main rutabaga varieties are American Purple Top, Laurentian and the Thomson Strain of the Laurentian.

A 100 gram serving of rutabagas contains 46 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram each of dietary fiber and protein, 11% of the DV for vitamin A, 43% for vitamin C, 6% for calcium and a small amount of iron. Rutabagas are also a decent source of potassium and folic acid.

The major turnip and rutabaga producing states are California, Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington. A significant amount of both is imported from Canada.
Both rutabagas and turnips are members of the mustard family. The good news is that because turnips and rutabagas are in the same family as cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables, they have many of the same health benefits, particularly as cancer fighters.

So do be sure to try turnips or rutabagas, and this minestrone is an easy way to do it!

1 comment:

  1. Ran Across Your blog and I have to say some of Your dishes sounds really good. Like this one for instance. I cant wait to try it. Thank You for sharing.


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