The 7 Root Sisters of Winter

Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes

Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes


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©2009  Shanna Lea (formerly Shanna Ohmes)

Root vegetables have been a part of traditional diets for thousands of years.  In fact, root veggies have sustained many cultures through long winters, famines and hard times.  If it wasn’t for the lowly root, many cultures and tribes would have perished.

Throughout the life of a plant, the life-force energy is concentrated in the part of the plant that is experiencing the most growth according to the season.  For example, in the spring, the energy is sent up into the stems and leaves, and at the same time it is going downward into the root, getting a foothold.  But the root is slow growing while everything above ground is growing at a fast rate.  In the summer the energy is sent into the flower bud, which is making the seed for the next generation.  Then in the fall, the flower falls away and the seed is ready for its hibernation.  At this time, the energy goes back down into the roots.  It has been slowly pulling all the minerals from the soil into itself.  This gives the root vitality, and it becomes a nutrient powerhouse!

In the fall and winter, it’s the root that sustains us, that gives us health and vitality.  During the whole of summer, the root is bedded down in the dark, nestled in between microbes and bacteria, earthworms, grubs and other beings that live in the soil.  The root pulls in the minerals and other nutrients while it is in hibernation.  We can reflect on this throughout the winter as we pull our own cloak of hibernation tightly around us, taking in only the nutrients that sustain us through the darkness.

There are 7 roots that are commonly available, nutrient dense and full of fiber that we can utilize during the winter months.  I call them the 7 Root Sisters.  Here are a few facts about each one.

Potatoes  The potato originally came from the Andean mountain range in South America.  The Spanish explorers took it back with them to Europe but it was not welcomed there by the common people for some time.  Many of the governments throughout Europe wanted the potato to become more popular because it was inexpensive to grow.  But the people were leery of the potato because it was a member of the nightshade family, and there are many poisonous plants in that family.  So how did it become popular?  Here’s how the story goes:  A French agronomist name Parmentier in the 18th century developed a scheme where the people could “steal” the potatoes right out of the King’s “guarded” gardens!  He also made mashed potatoes popular!

Carrots originated in central Asia and Middle Eastern countries.  This carrot was a deep purple variety.  In Afghanistan there was the yellow colored carrot.  By the 17th century selective breeding resulted in the orange carrot.  It was not as tough and fibrous as the earlier varieties.  By the 1800’s the carrot was the first veggie that was canned.  In 1998 John Evans of Anchorage Alaska grew a world record carrot.  It weighed in at 18.98 lbs.  Oh, and it was grown organically.

Beets  Winter is a time of spending more time in the cave, going inward to the hibernating parts of ourselves, rebuilding and renewing ourselves for the following spring.  Beets can help you rebuild your life force, the blood, and renew those parts of yourself that have stagnated.  The wild beet originated in prehistoric North Africa, but the people there ate the tops not the root.  When the beet range expanded, the Romans began using the root for food.  In northern Europe beets were used to feed livestock and it wasn’t until the 16th century that the people there started eating it.  The beet became immensely popular when the first sugar factory was built in Poland in the 19th century.

Turnips were cultivated in the Near East about 4,000 years ago.  The Greeks and Romans regarded them highly.  The turnip came across with the colonists and became a part of the African-American cuisine in the days of slavery when slave owners kept the turnip roots for themselves and left the greens for the slaves.  The slaves adopted the greens as a substitute for the variety of greens they had used in Western Africa.

Parsnips Here we have something most people don’t recognize.  The parsnip looks like a pale carrot.  It comes from the Mediterranean area, but grows better in colder climates.  The parsnip was the commonly used root vegetable before the potato was introduced in Europe.  Back when Tiberius was the Roman Emperor, he liked parsnips so much he had them brought in by the kilo.  He enjoyed them cooked in honeyed wine.

Sweet Pototoes  One of our oldest vegetables, sweet potato relics have been found in Peruvian caves and are thought to be around 10,000 years old.  Christopher Columbus took sweet potatoes back with him to Europe and 16th century Spanish explorers took them on to the Philippines, India, Africa, southern Asia and Indonesia.

Radishes  Cultivated in Egypt in 2780 BCE and also used by Greek physician Androcydes to prevent intoxication.  Radishes are quite medicinal, relieving congestion due to colds and flu, as a disinfectant, used for skin disorders and even insect bites!  Just pound the radish to get some juice and put it on the bite or sting.  It reduces the pain and swelling!  Radishes are used for detoxifying and cleaning the liver, blood, gallbladder and to cleanse the kidneys.

7 Sisters Soup Recipe

Cut up 1-2 roots of each veggie and put in a pot.

Cover with water and/or chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and turn down to a simmer for about an hour, until they are tender.  This makes a great potassium rich soup to sip when you are recovering from colds, flu, and other illnesses.

  • Add cooked roast chunks or chicken for protein.
  • Cook with the green tops and some seaweed for added benefits.
  • There’s no right or wrong way to make a soup.  Soups are versatile, and mine are never the same.  I’m always adding something new or different.
  • Don’t forget to add lots of onions and garlic!

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Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes



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