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Winter Roots

By Clark Zimmerman

Winter is the season of roots.  As the daylight wanes and the temperature drops, plants pull their energy away from above ground to store into their roots.  This is a chance for the plants to rest and consolidate energy before spring’s growth spurt.  Making winter the best time of year to include roots in your diet and medicine.

The chemical profile of a plant changes throughout the year.  Typically, the part of a plant that is most noticeable in a particular season is also the part of the plant that is the most useful part to consume.  Carrots, burdock, potatoes, beets, turnips and parsnips are all in their prime in the winter months.  Not only does their flavor tend to be sweeter, they are also more nutritious.  They provide the nutrients that our body’s need to thrive in the cold and dark winter months.  Roots typically take longer to cook and go perfectly with the seasons desire to be by a warm stove or a simmering soup.

Medicinally, root medicine tends to nourish the body deeply and supply extra energy. Many roots have immune system enhancing properties and can be taken as a tonic all winter long to help guard against many illnesses.  Often the line between food and medicine is very thin and this is especially true with roots.

Roots also hold a special metaphor for our inner process during the winter.  As busy humans, we are naturally slowed down in winter and tend to pull a lot of our energy away from the surface and to  “hunker down” into our roots.  This is our time of year, like plants, to rest and recover before the busyness of the spring.  It is a chance to reflect and enjoy the stored harvest of last years growth.  To be rooted as a human, means to be stable, confident, and balanced.  Roots are not the flashy fruit above the ground but the deep, underground, necessary parts of life. It is said that, “When the root is deep…..there is no reason to fear the wind,”  meaning that, by nourishing our roots, we become stronger for whatever winds that life may blow our way.