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Choosing Nutritious Root Crops—Look For Darkest-Colored Varieties

Shopping for Root Crops

When shopping at the supermarket for root crops, we should seek out varieties, of not only potatoes, but also beets, carrots and sweet potatoes, with the darkest colors of skin and flesh, which are indicators of higher concentrations of phytonutrients and therefore are much better for your health. These carefully researched and documented food facts and so much more are all eloquently presented by scientific writer Jo Robinson in her recent book, “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.”

“Eat more beets and beet greens,” says Robinson. “Red beets are high in betalins, bionutrients that may reduce the risk of cancer and a number of other diseases. Red beet juice reduces the effort it takes to run and walk and can lead to better athletic performance. Beet leaves are even more nutritious than the roots. When you buy bunch beets, trim the leaves from the roots and store them separately in the refrigerator—the leaves in a bag pricked with about 20 tiny holes and the roots unwrapped in the crisper drawer. Roasting, steaming, or micro-waving beets increases their antioxidant properties. To disguise the geosmin or earthy flavor of beets, serve them with mustard, horseradish, or vinegar.”

Recommended Beet Variety Seeds

SeedsNSuch offers all of her recommended beet variety seeds that feature the highest nutritional value, to include Bull’s Blood, Cylindra, Detroit Dark Red and Red Ace. In addition to their hearty roots, these varieties also feature tender and tasty greens, especially when harvested young, which provide even more phytonutrients than the roots alone.

When selecting carrots, Robinson notes, “The purple varieties are your most healthful choice because they are rich in anthocyanins. In an animal study, the anthocyanins in purple carrots reversed many of the health problems associated with a high-fat, high-carbohydrate, and high-fructose diet.” At the market, “To get the most health benefits from orange carrots, choose whole fresh carrots rather than so-called baby carrots. Carrots with their tops still attached have a fresher flavor than other carrots. Cooked carrots are more nutritious than raw carrots. Include some fat or oil with the meal. If you steam or bake them whole and cut them after they’re cooked, carrots are more flavorful and nutritious.”

Several of our best carrots from her recommendations are Atomic Red, Cosmic Purple and Red-Cored Chantenay. Most of our orange varieties are deep orange in color, making them some of the best for good health available in today’s market, especially if we follow her guidelines for storage, cooking and preparation.

Sweet Potatoes as A Superfood

As we discussed in last month’s blogs and newsletter, sweet potatoes are rated among the highest of all of our “superfoods” in regards to nutrition and bionutrients. Robinson”s research agrees, noting, “Sweet potatoes are a different species than common potatoes. They are higher in antioxidants than ordinary potatoes and have a lower glycemic index. The most nutritious varieties have red, dark orange, purple, or deep yellow flesh. If you store sweet potatoes in the refrigerator, they can develop an ‘off’ flavor. Store them in a cool, dark location instead. Eating more sweet potatoes and fewer conventional potatoes is a healthful choice.”

Most of our listings for sweet potato plants are types that are included in her recommendations, but Beauregard is mentioned by name, and Georgia Jet would be a strong second choice.

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