Reasons to eat roots and shoots
You already know you should eat your veggies, but did you know you can probably eat more parts of many of the vegetables you’re already nibbling? We’re talking about enjoying the whole dang thing, from root to shoot. There are whole food diets, and then there are WHOLE food diets.
From a nutrition standpoint, you’ll see more robust profiles of amino acids and vitamins, more macros, from different elements. Typically, the roots are most nutrient dense. However, food is naturally not as nutrient dense as it used to be because of farming practices and soil depletion. So we seek to get all the nutrient density we can find in a variety of ways.
At least three major reasons exist to eat more of your veggies… it helps the environment, saves you money, and bolsters your nutritional fortitude. Let’s review each of these areas:
- Ecological benefits: You’ll help reduce food waste. Most food that gets tossed (an estimated 97%) eventually breaks down into methane gas (a greenhouse gas) in landfills. Eating the entire plant is a matter of creating greater sustainability and working toward a zero waste environment.
- Financial benefits: You’ll find that as you eat more of the plant, you are wasting less of your purchased produce. Why throw out what you can eat for greater energy and vitality?
- Health benefits: You’ll get more variety and density of nutrients and added fiber when you eat more parts of edible plants. There are different components above ground and underground — like phytonutrients in the leaves.
Ideas for exactly how to get more out of your veggies are provided below.
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Turn the beet around…
Beets are a classic example of a whole food that gets under-eaten. While many people use only the dark red bulb of the beet plant, did you know that you can eat the leaves and roots as well? It has been estimated that the leaves contain more than eight times the nutritional content of beet roots. Beets provide folate, potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Beet greens contain vitamins C, K, A and B6. The natural nitrates in beet juice help to increase stamina, improve blood flow, and lower blood pressure. So, if you’re eating dehydrated beet chips, you’re missing out on much more than meets the eye.
Food processing companies often tout that their products contain trace amounts of nutritional compounds, but it’s harder to see the benefits of those ingredients than from their whole, fresh counterparts.
Additionally, farming techniques and soil depletion mean that we need to add greater nutrient density into our diets. We need to be creative in how we do this.
At Almeda, we believe that foods should be consumed in their whole form whenever possible. Mother nature grows food as a whole... not by piece. The body recognizes nutrients in their natural form. What is grown in nature can often be consumed whole to greater effect than by part. As we like to say, “Nature is a mirror - a direct reflection of ourselves.” It’s beautiful by design, actually.
Top 6 veggies to eat “Root-to-Shoot”
Be sure to eat these six vegetables from root to stem to get the most nutritional punch. Remember that the peels contain minerals, too:
Shoots & Leaves
Did you know you can use the leaves of carrots, beetroot, kohlrabi and white mooli radish in your cooking adventures? Stir them up in simple sautées, slaws, and stir frys. Simply add a little olive oil, some garlic and a squeeze of lemon or other citric acid for a sautée. Mix with a vinegar-based dressing for slaw, or add to a wok along with your favorite stir-fry ingredients.
You can also make pestos from shoots. Finely chop the leaves and add some nuts and herbs. You may prefer to mix these ingredients up in your food processor along with EVOO or avocado oil, garlic, parmesan cheese.
Pickling shoots is a fun way to go. Just whip up a vinegar solution (rice wine vinegar, salt, sugar) and soak the shoots until they are ready.
And you can use green onion just as you would a chive.
So to recap, don’t toss these shoots:
- Green onions
Before you chop off a root or stem and compost it or grind it up in your disposal, think twice. Here are a few ideas of plants that have tasty, fibrous edible stems. You can often sub them in for celery.
Chop finely and put these stems in soups or sautees:
- Collard greens
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Wild Onion
Some of our favorite ways to eat roots are very easy.
May we suggest:
- Celery root (You can simmer it with seafood.)
- Parsley root (Sub it out for carrots, parsnips or turnips.)
- Cauliflowers (You can eat both stems and leaves.)
- Broccoli stems (Steam and eat with the top or on its own.)
Skins, peels, & rinds
Think about ways to incorporate the skins, peels, and rinds into your cooking. Commonly we toss the skins of these veggies and fruits, when we could just as easily eat them.
Try these to start:
- Citrus zest (muffins, infusions)
You can often eat seeds as a roasted, stand-alone snack or use them for salad toppings. Or you can use the seeds alongside the plant you are cooking.
Try eating seeds from these plants:
Husks, cobs, and more
Husks and leaves can be used for packaging, such as bamboo leaves wrapped around rice. Cobs can be used when cooking soups and stews.
Consider new ways to use:
- corn husks & cobs
- bamboo leaves
Finally, the piece de resistance -- edible flowers! These are great to use as toppings, garnishes, or mix-ins for whatever you are cooking or serving.
We love to eat these flowering plants:
- Broccoli - flowering stalk harvested prior to flowering
- Cabbage – flowering stalk harvested prior to flowering
- Capers – often pickled prior to flower opening
- Cauliflower – flowering stalk harvested prior to flowering
- Zucchini blossoms
A word of caution
The list above provides a good place to start eating not just more veggies, but more of your veggies.
However, not every plant can be eaten whole -- some parts of some plants may be poisonous, a choking hazard, or otherwise indigestible… so be sure to check it out before you begin digging from your backyard and throwing all vegetation into your cauldrons with zeal.
A word of reassurance
Now, if you’re still struggling to eat what’s already in your fridge, don’t worry. We have one super hot tip for you, too: Free your freshest foods from the crisper drawer! You can keep veggies in other parts of the fridge that are more visible to you. Some will last as packaged, or you can keep them in a clear glass container at eye level. You can also keep fruits in a fruit bowl on your counter or table.
Make it easy to eat the veggies and you’ll feel better on three fronts -- your health, your wallet, and your environment.
How will you use more of the whole plant in your next dish? Let us know what you think!