What are root vegetables?


“There was a time when the only root vegetables anyone paid attention to were carrots and potatoes. Turnips were déclassé, celeriac unheard of, beets a pain to clean. The perception has changed, in part because it was all wrong; in part because if you’re going to eat seasonal and local, you are going to eat roots in winter, even if you live in California; and in part because roasted root vegetables are, like, the greatest thing ever, and even the company cafeteria can’t ruin them.” – Mark Brittman, NY Times

Benefits of eating root vegetables

I believe in eating what’s in season in order to give my body the vitamins it needs during each part of the year and to keep grocery costs low. This works out nicely, since during the summer I crave light, crisp fruits and vegetables, and in the winter months I often crave a warm, hearty meal containing root vegetables.

This winter I have tried to fill the fridge and pantry with as many root vegetables as I have room for because they are in season, taste delicious, and keep very well if I don’t eat them right away. Some root vegetables will keep for months if stored properly. These (usually) very inexpensive vegetables have tremendous health benefits because they grow underneath the ground, allowing them to absorb many nutrients and minerals available in the soil.

List of root vegetables

I think root vegetables are the underdogs of the grocery store. They’re dirty, ugly, and often ignored in the produce aisle. However, they deserve a fair shot on your table just like the popular, clean vegetables you invite regularly to your meals. Here is a list of root vegetables we have had on our table over the past few years:

  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Celeriac (a.k.a. Celery Root)
  • Onion
  • Parsnip
  • Potato
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Sweet Potato
  • Turnip

This may not sound like a very appetizing list of vegetables, but trust me, it’s all about how they are prepared!


Matt and I have been playing around with root vegetables this past week, and have come up with some tasty dishes we’d like to share. We had celery root in the fridge that we couldn’t wait to eat. This has to be one of the ugliest vegetables on the planet! It looks like a hairy bulb, and it might turn you off at first, but the taste is so rich and unique… I challenge you to add it to your grocery cart!

Mashed celeriac & potatoes

Ingredients:

Directions:

Peel celery root and dice into cubes. Wash potatoes and dice (we leave peels on). Add both to a large stockpot of boiling water and boil for 10-12 minutes. Drain vegetables and return to pot. Add butter and mash until butter is melted. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. (Add a little fresh grated parmesan cheese on top for an extra nutty flavor.)

Matt and I were offered a free turnip at the farmer’s market a few days ago and wanted to try it raw as the farmer suggested. It’s a beautiful vegetable that neither of us had ever eaten. I’ll admit, I was a bit scared when the farmer described it as a cross between a radish and a rutabaga, but Matt worked his magic and created a tasty little side dish.

Turnip Salad

Ingredients:

Toss all ingredients together and chill in the refrigerator for one hour or overnight. Add some chopped green onion or fresh diced tomato for a different spin on the salad.

More benefits of root vegetables

My cold winter bones are warmed with thoughts of all the delicious ways root vegetables can be prepared. They would be delicious roasted, grilled, or braised. They can be made into soups, gratins, hash browns, fries, or root vegetable chips. (I feel some more cooking projects coming on!)

How do you incorporate root vegetables into your winter diet and what are your favorite ways to prepare them?

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photo credit Yunhee Kim of NY Times

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Comments

  1. Jennifer O'Donnal says

    We have the BEST soup recipe EVER – when I was little I named it carrot soup… the name stuck, and it’s one of the tastiest meals. It is not a vegetarian soup, but it may be modified. None of the ingredients has ever been measured – it’s almost like a stone soup – add what you’ve got…
    iNGREDIENTS
    stew beef – brown in a large – a REALLY large pot
    potatoes – cubed
    carrots – sliced
    shredded cabbage
    parsnips – cliced
    mashed up plum tomatoes, skinned and stewed
    turnip – diced
    rutabaga – diced
    Bell’s Poultry Seasoning
    Water

    Add it all together and simmer on med-low until all veggies are tender.
    Add a crusty bread with sweet cream…. ahhhhh BLISS!

  2. says

    You need to try salsify as well; another delicious root veg.
    Your blog is enjoyable and gets useful information to a lot of people but I’m always amused because country/mountain folks have always eaten root vegs. In days past, a plot of turnips were grown for humans and for livestock. Sheep and horses would paw in the dirt to unearth the turnips; same with pumpkins although I split those open to make eating easier.
    I prefer my vegs roasted in the oven with EVOO, salt and pepper; simple, plain and delicious although I’ll fix soup and home made bread for blustery winter days.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Salsify…looking into it now! Thanks for the perspective on how these things were always done in days past. I think so many people could benefit from getting back to everything you speak of…so simple and practical!

  3. Mrs.G says

    I like this simple recipe for radishes:
    Separate greens from roots and clean both thoroughly.
    Matchstick the roots and chiffonade the greens.
    Sauté the roots in olive oil.
    When tender add salt, pepper, and the greens; continue over high heat until the greens are wilted and bright green.

  4. chantelle says

    This has never failed me:

    Cut root veggie(s) into bite sized pieces.

    Toss with good quality EVOO, freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.
    Roast in the oven at about 350 until veggies are soft and slightly brown. Stir occasionally if you feel like it.

    My favorite combo: beets, parsnips, red onion, pumpkin, and carrots. Yeah, the beets turn everything a bit pink. You can toss them separately if this bothers you.

    And I don’t bother to peel the beets, carrots, or the parsnips. Use organically grown produce and wash with water and a vegetable brush.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      We’re renting right now and don’t have a root cellar. We just have to get creative with dark, cool places to store things now. :) A root cellar would be very convenient!

  5. melody says

    The county extension office comes to my classroom and reads to the children and lets them try new foods. She serves raw turnip with ranch dip and it is delicious.

  6. Tangela says

    My aunt gave a bunch of turnip roots just the other day and my brother came by today to gave me turnip greens and roots that he pick out of his friend’s garden. He also picked some broccoli rabe and a cabbage. Thanks for the recipes I’ll be trying them soon.