By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Carrots, turnips, and beets. These are the everyday root vegetables at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market that we eat year-round. However, at this time of year, as summer harvests hit their peak, they shine. They come to market fresh from our area’s farm fields, often with their stems attached. These stems are not only pretty to look at but are edible, too.
Farmers harvest root vegetables by pulling them from the stem. These stems add nutrition and flavor to summer meals, not to mention value to your market purchases. The leafy greens of beets, turnips, and carrots are all sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. Here are a few tips for getting started:
● Carrot tops. Clip off the green feathery tops. Wash them well and rinse them a couple of times to remove excess dirt. Select the greenest and most tender tips of the bunch and add them to soups, stocks, or to vegetables you might be roasting or braising for the night’s meal. They taste somewhat like parsley but add a distinct carrot-y flavor.
● Turnip greens. The leafy greens that top Hakurei and other white summer turnips can make a pleasantly spiced appetizer when cooked by themselves. After removing the greens, wash them well and discard any yellowed or wilted leaves. To cook, chop the greens finely, and heat up a skillet. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, freshly chopped garlic, fennel seed, coriander, cumin and/or fenugreek. Toast the spices for a minute or so, then add the turnip greens. Toss them quickly in the hot pan with tongs or two wooden spoons so that they are mixed into the spices. Once the greens have wilted, serve them with a squeeze of lemon and your favorite beverage.
● Beet greens. These leaves along with their ruby-red stems have a rich flavor that is sometimes even more intense than the beets. After a good wash to remove grit, the younger leaves are delicious steamed or chopped finely for salads. Save the older leaves for stir-fries or saute them with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
Other stems also can yield delicious dishes. Try, for instance, adding the stems of basil, parsley, or cilantro to soups or to stocks. Or save them and use in pesto.