‘Tis the season for hearty veggies with pungent aromas, divine rich flavors and interesting back stories to dial-up your dishes and answer your culinary curiosities. Let’s get to the root of the matter with some fall faves.
I Yam what I Yam
Are yams and sweet potatoes the same?
These two tubers are not botanically created equal. Sweet potatoes, members of the morning glory family cultivated in the southern U.S. in the 16th century are orange or golden-fleshed dicotylens, while yams, Latin American imports with African and Asian ancestry are monocots belonging to the Dioscoreaceae family.
The appearances and textures of these two flowering plants differ too: the stubby, taper-ended sweet potato has a glabrous thin-skin ranging from purpley red to brown; the scaly-skinned yam with varying hues from dark brown to light pink is elongated and cylindrical-shaped. The former is also moist and sweet with a mother lode of Vitamins C, B6, iron, potassium, calcium and folic acid, and beats the pants off of yams in calcium, iron, Vitamin E and beta-carotene content, probably in part due to yam’s lighter, less nutrient-rich “flesh” color.
To prevent tuber confusion, the Department of Agriculture has stipulated that the ruby roots must include the tag line “sweet potato” especially if they are casually referred to as “yams.”
Whether your druthers are sweet potatoes or yams, they both add a nutritional oomph to any dish along with a splash of eye candy. These creamy complex carbs can be pureed into baby foods, quick breads, custards, pies or cream soups, diced into stews, sliced into French-fries, grated into pancakes or croquettes or shredded raw into salads. These tubers pair well with coconut, ginger, lime, cinnamon, nutmeg and honey.
Are Brussels sprouts immature cabbages?
Although they resemble miniature cabbage heads, Brussels sprouts are yet another member of the crucifer family. They were cultivated in the 16th century in the Flemish city of Brussels, ergo the name. Rows of sprouts grow on a long stalk, two to three feet in length. These low cal, high fiber, anti-carcinogen powerhouses are packed with Vitamins A, K, C, B6, folate, potassium, thiamin, iron and manganese. Slice them raw in slaws or sauté and toss in salads, or roast with balsamic vinegar and olive oil as a side for your holiday duck or turkey.
The Albino Carrot
Are parsnips unripe or immature carrots?
Parsnips, European imports from the 1600s are a close cousin to the carrot not an unripe version. They are mostly enjoyed cooked, whether roasted or tossed in soups and stews exuding an aroma reminiscent of turnips, a creamy buttery texture, and a sharp taste similar to butterscotch and cardamom.
Which potatoes have the highest starch content?
Russets, hands down are the king of starch, making them the best potatoes for baking and whipping up fluffy mashed potatoes. And as they don’t absorb a lot of oil russets are also the best choice for French fries too. Since red-skins and Yukon Golds have a lower starch content they stay firm after cooking, making them ideal for potato salads, soups, chowders and scalloped dishes.
Rings a Bell
What’s the diff between green bell peppers and red ones?
Just like green olives are unripe black ones, green bells are unripe red, yellow and orange ones. The immature greens will eventually change color and develop more nutrients. Red and orange hued peppers contain 11 times the beta-carotene as green ones.
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