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The prepared foods section at Whole Foods Market in River Forest, Ill., was teeming with autumn color and flavor on a recent afternoon. Baked potato soup, roasted ratatouille with zucchini squash and eggplant, Cajun roasted sweet potatoes, ginger mashed yams and apples, and raspberry beet salad were among the dishes tempting grocery shoppers.
Like many savvy supermarket delis, Whole Foods is making the most of the potatoes and root vegetables in-season during the cool, crisp months of fall.
Potatoes and root vegetables bring more than flavor and color to the prepared foods lineup, however. They pack important nutrients too—a fact that delis can use to promote these veggie dishes to health-conscious shoppers.
Potatoes, for example, are fat- and gluten-free and high in vitamins B and C, contain powerful antioxidants, and deliver more potassium per serving than one banana, according to the Idaho Potato Commission.
These veggie offerings are good from a profit perspective too.
“At $19.50 a carton, for example, the cost per potato is only 21.7 cents or 2.4 cents an ounce, which makes it one of the most economical fresh produce ingredients you can utilize for in-store deli locations,” says Don Odiorne, vice president of foodservice for the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC). “From house made potato salads to twice-stuffed baked potatoes to oven-roasted potato wedges, there are many recipes bound to be popular with your customer base too.”
Root vegetables boast a similar healthy profile.
“Root vegetables are nutrition powerhouses full of fiber and antioxidants and jam-packed with key nutrients including potassium and vitamin C,” according to Katy Magoon, Hannaford’s registered dietitian, in “Fall for Root Vegetables.” The website is part of Fruits & Veggies—More Matters®, a public health initiative from the Produce for Better Health Foundation in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Roots are some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world. Because they grow underground, they absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil,” according to the vegetarian food blog Oh My Veggies. “They are . . . filled with slow-burning carbohydrates and fiber.”
These customer-pleasing vegetables are also extremely versatile cooking ingredients and trendy to boot. In the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2014 Survey, 45 percent of the nearly 1,300 chefs interviewed called root vegetables a “Hot Trend,” and 38 percent considered them a “Perennial Favorite.”
Featuring root vegetables during the fall harvesting season is especially advantageous, when they are less costly and at their highest nutritional value, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). “Our Harvest of the Month newsletters feature produce that is available at the best value for the dollar during a given month; for this reason, root vegetables tend to show up in the fall,” says a CDPH spokesperson.
Preparation and menu suggestions
There are myriad ways to menu potatoes and root vegetables in foodservice delis.
Magoon, who calls preparation options for root vegetables “limitless,” says they can be baked, boiled, roasted, sautéed or even shredded and then formed into high-fiber, lower-carbohydrate hash browns. She shares her recipe for Root Vegetable Haystacks made with parsnips, turnips and sweet potatoes in her “Fall for Root Vegetables” post.
Top root vegetables
- Celery root/celeriac
- Jerusalem artichokes