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Using vegetables from root to stem

Root-to-stem eating is a modern food trend, and it’s an easy one to adopt even if your diet is not entirely plant-based. Here are five vegetables you can eat whole

One small thing:For a rustic potato salad, leave the skin on after cooking, chop roughly, and season with dill and mustard for an extra punch of flavour.

According to the WWF, 10 million tons of food go to waste in South Africa every year. Unused and discarded fruit, vegetables and cereals account for 70% of this wastage.

One way to counteract this is to buy vegetables that can be eaten from root to stem. And the benefits are manifold:

  • It reduces waste, which is better for the environment.
  • It helps to stretch the budget.
  • Including the whole vegetable adds variety to meals.
  • The added fibre and nutrients improve gut (and overall) health.

Increasingly, people are becoming more aware of the value of consuming the parts of vegetables they once relegated to the compost heap. Green tops, leaves, fronds, stems, skins and stalks are healthy and nutrient rich, and can easily be incorporated into your diet.

And to keep things interesting, “Don’t eat the same root vegetables all the time; eat a variety to get a wider selection of nutrients,” advises Teresa Fung, dietitian and adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The “big five” veggies you can eat from root to stem
1. Potatoes

Many recipes instruct you to peel potatoes, but the skin is where most of the fibre is stored and fibre is essential for gut health (so don’t be too hasty to throw potato peels in the bin or on the compost heap). The humble spud is also a source of complex carbohydrates that can help keep you feeling fuller for longer. Try a baked sweet potato, which is rich in vitamin A, with a drizzle of low-oil mayo or cottage cheese.

2. Carrots

Carrot leaves are a source of a variety of phytonutrients. If you haven’t eaten carrot greens before, start by adding a small amount to soup, or chop finely and sprinkle over a salad.

3. Broccoli

By eating the whole vegetable, you’re getting a rich injection of vitamins and minerals and a myriad of other plant chemicals that are linked to improved immunity and possibly even protection against cancer. Eat it raw – chopped up into a salad, for example – or steam for around three minutes to enjoy its generous goodness.

4. Fennel

Fennel’s unique anise flavour adds depth to salads, coleslaws, pastas and veggie bakes. Stalks and fronds are best used fresh. Chop finely and add as a topping to salads, as you would parsley or dill. You can also layer slices of the stalk with fish before baking. The bulbs themselves can be braised, roasted, grilled or sautéed for a delicious side. Fennel is a rich source of potassium and is low in kilojoules.

5. Beetroot

Purple-veined beetroot leaves are just as important for us nutritionally as the bulb. The flavour profiles differ slightly, though. Beetroot bulbs have an earthy taste and are best when cooked, while the greens, which have a flavour not unsimilar to kale, can be prepared by lightly sautéing. Raw leaves can also be finely chopped and added to a salad and pair particularly well with roasted pumpkin seeds.

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