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How Chicago can dig in

The choice root vegetables from underworld ranges from familiar -- beets carrots potatoes radishes parsnips turnips -- unfamiliar like jicamburdock

The choice of root vegetables from the underworld ranges from the familiar -- beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes, parsnips and turnips -- the unfamiliar like jicama, burdock, Jerusalem artichokes, lotus root, crosnes and wasabi.

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Yes, even those who live in Chicago high-rises can begin to discover — or, pardon the pun, “dig” — their roots.

Author Diane Morgan understands that everyone isn’t as roots-oriented or as savvy on shopping at farmers markets as she is, and most readers aren’t likely to need or heed her advice on how to dig a root cellar.

Yet the former Chicago chef insists that Roots, her latest cookbook, can serve as a primer to advance produce purchasers from usual fare (“rosy beets, glowing carrots, the always agreeable potato, and smooth-skinned radishes”) to hearty, healthful, nutrition-packed, budget-friendly root vegetables such as yuca, celery root, horseradish, rutabaga, burdock and lotus root.

Morgan recommends city dwellers and suburbanites begin their roots adventure by exploring the gnarly and more exotic roots available in the produce departments of, for example, Whole Foods and Treasure Island, and by taking advantage of farmers markets such as Green City Market that extend beyond early fall.

“And then I’d suggest Chicagoans begin to venture out — say, on weekends — to new roots sources such as Asian and Hispanic markets. I’d head to Chinatown, for sure. And I recommend those searching for roots not be afraid to ask, ‘What is this? And how do I prepare it?’ They can use the preparation information and recipes I included in Roots, and by next summer, when all of their favorite farmers markets are open, they will be first in line for farmers baskets of strange-looking but delicious roots.”

Sandy Thorn Clark



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