One has to admire the pluck of the first creature to have nibbled on a root vegetable. It must have been pure instinct that led him to dig for a snack, since it certainly wasn't the roots' good looks. But what they lack in appearance, they make up for in dietary virtue, boasting abundant vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some, such as turnips and rutabagas, are also thought to reduce the risk of certain cancers. Though they're full of natural sugars, all root vegetables are low in calories. Starchy in texture, they offer a flavorful and seemingly indulgent experience with only trace amounts of fat.
In the garden, grocery store, or farmers' market, choose firm, unwrinkled vegetables with root and stem ends intact. Carrots and parsnips should be free of pitting; radishes should be very smooth. When you get your selections home, cut any green tops down; wrap the vegetables in plastic, and store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Use radishes, turnips, and young carrots within a few days; larger roots, such as beets and rutabagas and older carrots and parsnips, will keep a little longer, some up to several weeks.
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