How to Roast Root Vegetables + Fresh Harvest
I occasionally agree to review products or write a sponsored post, but only with companies that align with my values. This post is absolutely no exception. I’m all for any company that wants to support sustainable agriculture and make buying local, organic food easier! As always, all opinions are my own.
This week I got to try out a basket of local, organic fruits and vegetables from the folks at Fresh Harvest, an Atlanta-based company that delivers locally-grown produce and organic groceries. They work directly with farmers to fill weekly CSA-like baskets that they drop off at your home or office. Fresh Harvest baskets range from family-sized to just enough for a few snacks, as well as break room baskets or ones just for juicing. They do include some out-of-state items like citrus from Florida or the organic cranberries I got this week from Washington, but they also offer 100% local options. I appreciate that you can choose to swap out items, giving you more flexibility than a typical farm share/CSA. You can also add other local goods to your basket like meat, dairy, eggs, baked goods, or even soap. I’m excited to have this option in the winter when a lot of local markets close down and for weekends when I miss my usual markets because I’m traveling. If you want to try out a basket, use code “Kitchen 1204” for 50% off of your order!
I received a standard basket, which came in reusable packaging (with icepacks if you’re not home at delivery time) and included 3 different fruits and 10 vegetables, plus their “share the harvest” bag, which you can opt to donate to people in need. I cook a LOT–usually 2-3 breakfasts, 4-5 lunches, and 5-6 dinners a week for my husband and me. I feel pretty safe saying that this basket ($43) would cover our produce needs for a week. That’s great value relative to the cost of organic produce at local farmers markets or grocery stores, not to mention the saved time and gas. Plus you’re supporting a local business, local farmers, the local economy, and sustainable agriculture. That’s a win-win.
Now back to our regular programming! My Fresh Harvest basket included a number of root vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes, yellow onions) and winter squash (butternut)–things that I love to roast all fall and winter. Roasting root vegetables and winter squashes doesn’t have to be complicated, but I’ve encountered a lot of questions about it from friends and in my cooking classes. There are two very common mistakes that lead to mushy results with little to no browning: oven temperatures too low and crowded pans. Fortunately there are easy solutions: roast hotter and don’t crowd your pan! Obviously oven temperature is a pretty straightforward affair (I almost always roast vegetables at 400°F – 425°F), but crowding the pan–what does that mean? It means that you’re not leaving room for the moisture to escape and the hot air to circulate. If you shove everything into a pan, the moisture released ends up steaming the vegetables rather than allowing them to roast because moisture is the enemy of browning. So let’s fix that! Either get a second pan or a bigger one. Now what exactly does crowding look like? Let me show you:
On the left is a crowded pan. It’s easy to think, “All of my vegetables fit into the pan! In a single layer!” However, they don’t have any room to breathe. At a glance, the pans on the right don’t look too different, but it’s all of the vegetables from the left photo spread over two pans, so they have twice as much space.
Try your best to cut all of the pieces an uniformly as possible. That helps all of the veggies roast at a similar rate. If you’re roasting multiple pans of vegetables, it’s a great opportunity to use the convection mode of your oven if you have it. Convection ovens help circulate the air more evenly throughout the oven, which is especially helpful when you have trays on more than one rack.
Now all of these principles apply whether you’re cooking just one type of vegetable or a big medley. If you’re wondering what a root vegetable is, it just means that the part you’re eating is literally an enlarged root of a plant (technically they fall into different groups including true roots, taproots, rhisomes, tubers, and bulbs). Anytime you purchase these root vegetables with the greens attached, you should snip them off immediately and store separately. The greens will continue drawing nutrients from the roots even after harvest.
Here are some examples of root vegetables:
Sunchokes / Jerusalem artichokes
Winter squashes are typically harvested in late summer and early fall, but they get their name from their ability to store for a long time. The most common varieties include pumpkin, butternut squash, and acorn squash.
Now without further adieu, here’s your roasting guide:
- 2 pounds root vegetables or winter squash
- 2-3 tablespoons oil (olive, grape seed, walnut, coconut, etc)
- salt + pepper
- desired seasonings
Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled. Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Vegetables will shrink when they roast, so judge the amount you need accordingly.
Roasted vegetables are wonderful with just salt + pepper, but you can get creative with seasonings. For a sweeter dish, add cinnamon and/or ginger, then drizzle with honey or maple syrup after roasting. For a spicy dish, add 1-2 teaspoons of chipotle powder and 1/2 teaspoon cumin.