During December, we often fill our plates with holiday treats. Traditional foods like ham, turkey, latkes or brisket are often the star of our meals, but there is still plenty of room on your plate to celebrate root vegetable month.
Root vegetables – which include items like radishes, carrots, onions, potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, and beets – are categorized as vegetables whose underground roots are edible. In addition to their nutritional benefits, these often under-used veggies can add color and variety to your meals.
As a kid you were probably told that carrots make your eyesight better, but there are several other nutritional goodies found in root vegetables. For example, sweet potatoes are high in potassium and can help you maintain healthy blood pressure. Like carrots, they are also an excellent source of Vitamin A and an important part of keeping your eyes and skin healthy as well as protecting you from infections.
Beets and radishes are low-calorie foods that can also help lower your cholesterol, and many root vegetables store nutrients in their leafy tops. Turnip leaves, often eaten as greens, are a great source of Vitamin C.
Here at USDA, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) does its part to help ensure the safety of root vegetables and other produce. We offer audit services to verify that fruit and vegetable farmers, packers and handlers have implemented food safety programs which follow best practices to minimize the risks of microbial food safety hazards.
Our Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices Program (GAP & GHP) verifies participating farming and food operations are following U.S. Food and Drug Administration food safety guidelines as well as generally recognized food safety practices. By meeting the requirements of our audit program – including things like having a documented food safety plan, testing of water sources and requirements for employee hygiene – farmers and businesses build trust with their customers. This assures customers that the produce they served at their holiday meals was grown, packed and handled by a farmer who takes food safety seriously.
With the holidays right around the corner, celebrate by finding creative ways to feature root vegetables on your dinner menu. One of our favorite recipes is the roasted root vegetable recipe found on the USDA’s Snap-ed Connection page. Give it a try this holiday season or any other time of year.