A hybrid of turnips and cabbage, the rutabaga is a colorful vegetable, yellow/orange with a top of purple/brown. Sweet and mild, they're also known as winter, yellow, or Swedish turnips. You can store them in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark area with good ventilation. Keep in mind, though, that the longer you keep rutabaga after harvest the stronger the taste, so you might want to try to use them within a week or so.
Cut raw rutabaga into sticks, or grate it into a salad. For easy cooking, cut it into wedges, then peel, or cook and then peel. Rutabaga can be glazed, baked, steamed, boiled, sautéed, deep fried, or microwaved. Serve it as a side dish or in casseroles, soups, stews, and fritters. They're specially delicious with apples and raisins and seasoned with bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, curry powder, garlic, ginger, mint, nutmeg, onions, pepper, sea salt, poppy seed, and/or rosemary.
A member of the morning glory family, sweet potatoes are high in natural sugar and a good source of vitamin A and potassium. Their skins range from pale yellow to deep copper, and they can be baked, boiled, roasted, steamed, fried, and served as is or in casseroles, soups, desserts, breads, and soufflés.
Choose sweet potatoes that are small to medium; these are more tender than their larger siblings. Because they contain more sugar than other potatoes, sweet potatoes have a shorter shelf life. Still, they'll keep for a few weeks in a dry, cool, well-ventilated area away from light (but don't refrigerate them or they'll soften).
By the way, sweet potatoes are unrelated to both yams and potatoes. Season them liberally with allspice, cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and/or tarragon.
A good source of vitamin C and calcium, turnips have a mild radish taste. While they store well, turnips taste best when eaten soon after harvesting in early fall. Choose small turnips, as they tend to get woody and bitter if overgrown. Store them in a bag in the refrigerator. (Leave the tops on during storage and don't wash them before storing.)
To prepare, rinse in cool water, cut away tops, and peel them (the skin is bitter). Then boil, steam, sauté, bake, or braise whole. If the turnip is large, you may want to slice or cube it before cooking. You can also grate raw turnips in salads and slaws or slice it to serve alongside carrot sticks. Be sure to use the nutrient-rich tops, too, in salads or steamed. Two pounds serve about 4 people.
Turnips are delicious when served with tart apples, pears or radishes. Season them with allspice, basil, bay leaf, cayenne, cinnamon, garlic, lemon juice, marjoram, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, and/or poppy seed.
Hard-shelled winter squash -- like spaghetti squash, acorn, butternut, and Hubbard -- are edible gourds that keep extraordinarily well and are wonderful to look at. A great source of vitamin A and potassium, stuffed winter squash is a holiday favorite, but it's also delicious when simply seasoned and served as a side dish. The flesh is also perfect for use in pie fillings, cakes, and muffins.
Choose squash with a matte skin (not shiny) and an intact stem. Don't refrigerate winter squash after harvest or purchase. Instead, store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated spot, where it should keep for about a month. If you find it difficult to cut a raw squash, you can partially bake or microwave it until it's just a bit soft, then cut it and continue cooking. Winter squash can be baked, grilled, sautéed, microwaved, steamed, boiled, stir-fried, or deep-fried. An easy method is to cut in half, scoop out the seeds and fibers, then bake in the oven until tender, about an hour.
Good squash spices include allspice, basil, bay leaf, celery seed, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, sea salt, sesame seeds, and thyme.
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