Seasonal foods in the Upper Midwest in February might seem like a fool’s errand: tubers that seem like a throwback to the Great Depression are generally the only game in town once you hit the third month of winter. But those versatile little roots not only got America through the ’30s, they are delicious.
Seward Co-op had a plethora of local seasonal goodies.
Harmony Valley Farm (Viroqua, WI)
Gold turnip $1.99/pound
Horseradish Root $7.99/lb.
Wisconsin Growers Co-Op (Mondovi, WI)
Jack and the Green Sprouts (River Falls, WI)
Mixed Bean Sprouts ($2.99).
Rock Spring Farm (Spring Grove, MN)
Black Spanish Radish $1.99/lb
Cippolini Onions $4.99/lb.
Keewaydin Farms (Viola, WI)
Blue Potatoes, 1 lb./$1.79
Labore Farms (Faribault, MN)
Specialty Greens, $2.49 (sustainable hydroponic) “All product is
handpicked and delivered within 24 hours after harvest.”
The mixed greens are an obvious choice – perfect for salads and keeping the winter carb-fest at bay. A little salad dressing, perhaps some shredded radish or celariac, and you have a side dish. The mixed bean sprouts are also unexpectedly flavorful, with garbanzos, peas, and a variety of actual beans. They bring a little sweetness with an tinge of bitter. They are also great as a salad, or a little snack.
Root veggies can basically be divided into 2 broad categories: the “potato-like,” and the “multi-tasker.”
Potato-like tubers include turnips, rutabaga, sunchoke, beets, and potato. These are wonderful roasted as a hash, mashed, sliced and fried. They generally have an interior that can be mushy when cooked, and can brown nicely on the outside when roasted. The flavors vary a bit: sunchokes are honey-flavored and gentle, turnips generally bitter, and beets sweet and moist. A simple preparation of oil, salt and pepper, and a 375 degree oven can make them all sing. Add the Cippolini onions for an extra dash of sweetness (these little guys are like shallots with their gentle flavor).
Want some more flavor? You can mix up pretty much anything with these veggies before roasting: rosemary and garlic, honey and herbes de provance, molasses, whole heads of garlic which will mellow when roasted, tomatoes and Italian spices. The honey or molasses in particular will help sweeten things like turnips, and also make a kind of caramelized glaze all over the veggies.
The “multi-tasker” type of root vegetables contains the wild cards – celeriac, burdock, radishes, horseradish (it would also contain carrots in season). These vegetables have vastly different textures and also contribute more flavor than the potato-type: they require a little more planning. Celeriac can be roasted with the other veggies or grated into a slaw. Radishes are best raw, again as a slaw or over salad. Burdock can be fried like chips or grated into a slaw or added to soup.
Horseradish is closest in use to ginger. You can grate small amounts into 1 cup of cream and a little butter, heat through, and you have a fabulous horseradish cream to add to your roasted veggies. Add some cheese or a fried egg on top for a fabulous breakfast.
Next month: perhaps something not from the ground.