The term root vegetable is a general one, referring to vegetables from botanical families that store nutrients either in their edible roots or in the underground stems called tubers. Beyond the bins of sweet potatoes and potatoes you’ll discover a whole new realm of rich flavours and textures, as well as bodacious amounts of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins, etc.
Goatsbeard, or salsify, is popular in both Europe and the southern United States. Salsify, cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans, was a popular kitchen-garden vegetable in 18th- and 19th-century America, when it was valued as a blood purifier. These days, it’s considered a good source of vitamin C, some B vitamins, potassium, and inulin etc.
The flowers and stems are not eaten; it’s the pungent root that is popular. Because it tastes somewhat like oysters, this fishy-flavoured root is often called oyster plant. It is used to add savory flavor to everything from soups to stews.
Burdock (aka gobo)
This long, cylindrical root grows wild throughout much of the world, but it’s probably native to Asia.
Chinese introduced burdock to the Japanese as a medicine about 1,000 years ago, but the Japanese are responsible for its use as a culinary plant. Its earthy flavor ranges from mild to assertive, depending on the age and quality of the roots. Try burdock in stir-fries or an Asian-inspired braise such as kinpira.
Celery root (aka celeriac)
Celery root and regular bunch celery are varieties of the same Mediterranean plant, and they contain similar nutrients, including iron, folate, calcium, vitamin C, and dietary fiber. Celery root has a milder, more complex flavor, and raw preparations showcase its earthy sweetness as well as its fine-grained texture. Cooked, it doesn’t turn starchy but gives velvety body to soups and purees. It’s also delicious simply cut into pieces, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted until tender and golden.
Jerusalem artichoke (aka Sunchoke)
This crisp, knobbly little tuber comes from a type of North American sunflower. The name Sunchoke was trademarked in 1980 by Frieda Caplan, a specialty produce wholesaler in Los Angeles who has always been ahead of the curve. It has a high content of the indigestible carbohydrate inulin, which stimulates prebiotic activity (i.e., a healthy balance of microorganisms) in the large intestine. Jerusalem artichokes are rich not only with vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium but a good amount of iron (3 mg iron per 100 mg, which is comparable to the iron content of meats)—as well as a sweet, nutty flavor with a subtle yet definite hint of artichoke hearts. The tubers can be roasted whole until tender or quickly sautéed to retain their snap.
This type of parsley has been selectively bred for its root (which is high in potassium) since early medieval times. It’s smaller than the more familiar parsnip, and while it lacks that vegetable’s characteristic sweetness, it makes up for it with an herbaceous parsley like punch and an elusive earthiness reminiscent of celery root. Many gardeners enjoy growing it because they get a twofer: fresh leaves throughout the summer and roots harvested in the fall. Parsley root is integral to many an old-school Jewish chicken soup, and it adds an aromatic depth and complexity to braises, mashes, or a root-vegetable hash.
This sweet, juicy cousin to parsley root, celery root, and carrot may look unprepossessing, but it’s a good source of vitamins (in particular, C and B complex) and minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. Although parsnips have a great affinity for creamy sauces, they are just as delicious when roasted or cooked and mashed with potatoes. Counter the root’s sweetness with dark leafy pot greens such as kale, the smokiness of bacon or ham, or the brininess of capers or anchovies.
Rutabaga (aka yellow turnip, swede)
This member of the nutritional all-star Brassicaceae (Cruciferae) family is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium, beta-carotene, and fiber. Peppery and assertively flavored, rutabagas are wonderful raw, as a snack, or diced or shredded in a salad. Cut them into matchsticks and sauté, or if you have more time, cut them into chunks and roast with other root vegetables. They are especially delicious in purees, whether alone or paired with potatoes.
This root is a brassica, like the rutabaga. It’s very high in vitamin C and sulfuric compounds, particularly glucosinolates, which are thought to have antioxidant properties. The purple-topped turnip, which is common this time of year, has a clean, peppery bite and is a cornerstone of many a soup and stew. Turnips give a great balance to a mixture of roasted root vegetables, and they cut the richness in a potato mash or gratin. They also make a light, fresh-tasting puree.
Sweet Potatoes & Yams
Among the most usable, user-friendly, and palatable roots, sweet potatoes and yams are great mashed, pureed and made into soup, roasted, and baked into muffins, cookies, pancakes and so much more. Yams are often confused with sweet potatoes, and although they can be used interchangeably, there is a difference.
Touted as a superfood, beets are among the healthiest foods on the planet. They’re full of beta-carotene and betalains, which are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. Beets have an earthy, sweet flavor, and are best when roasted, steamed, or left raw and shredded. Golden beets are typically slightly sweeter than red beets.
Relative of wild cabbage, this unique-looking vegetable has been hailed as one of the 150 healthiest foods on Earth. It is most commonly consumed in India, and is a staple in the Kashmiri diet. Pretty much everything on this plant is edible. Fry up the root for some kohlrabi fries, toss the leaves in a salad, or chomp on the crisp, juicy stems for a low-calorie snack.Underneath the thick skin and strange tentacles of kohlrabi lies juicy, crisp flesh. Kohlrabi can be cooked or left raw, and it makes delicious oven-baked fries. It can also be made into a mash, pureed into soup, or sliced thinly and added to salads.
An heirloom vegetable with a rough black root that must be peeled before being eaten, this radish has a distinctive bitter taste. The Black radish was first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean and is believed to be a relative of the wild radish. An ancient vegetable, radishes were grown in Egypt even before the pyramids were built. In the 19th century they were a popular variety of radish in England and France. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and also provide potassium, iron and magnesium as well as vitamins A, E and B. They are also known for their ability to fight off infection and promote healthy digestive function.Today,the Black radish is commonly utilized to make herbal supplements available in capsule and tincture form and used to treat a variety of health aliments.It can be shaved into salads, but is also good boiled and mashed.
A mild-flavored East Asian white radish. Daikon is is root vegetable said to have originated in the Mediterranean and brought to China for cultivation around 500 B.C.
It is most prevalent in Japanese cooking, where it is often pickled and used as a garnish or condiment. Daikon is very low in calories. A 3-ounce serving contains only 18 calories and provides 34 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. Rich in vitamin C, daikon contains active enzymes that aid digestion, particularly of starchy foods
Jicama is native to Mexico and Central America. Low in calories but high in a few vital nutrients, jicama provides one-quarter of what’s needed daily in fiber per serving. But not just any fiber – jicama’s fiber is infused with oligofructose inulin. Jicama is also an excellent source of vitamin C – 44% of the daily value per serving. Sweet and Spicy, they add great crunch to a salad, or eaten traditionally with a little lime juice and chile powder.
Crunchy, delicate flavoured, lotus root is an edible rhizome (root) of lotus plant. It is popular as renkon in the Japan. Since centuries, lotus has held high esteem in the far East regions, especially in Chinese and Japanese cultures. They are a good source of minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber.A crisp fibrous texture with a mild distinctive flavour similar to an artichoke makes them great mashed or fried.
These vegetables come from some of the oldest root crops in the world and were first cultivated in the Caribbean and Central America. Resembling a yam, the flavor is earthy, and has a similarity to nuts. This root vegetable in your diet can help you meet your daily fiber and potassium needs. Plus, it’s considered one of the least allergenic foods, according to the University of Florida, making it a good choice for anyone with severe food allergies.
This carrot is a deep wine color on the outside with a brilliant orange within. They contain more beta carotene than their orange counterparts, and they have antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which give the carrots their distinctive purple color. They are rich in flavor and have smooth, edible skins. Sweeter and crunchier than the orange variety, they add color and flavor to salads or soups.
Shaped like a long sweet potato, the flesh is creamy or yellow in colour while its skin can be light brown, dark brown or tan. It is somewhat nutty with a slightly chewy texture similar to a potato. Grown throughout the tropics as well as West Africa, China, Korea, the South Pacific, India and the Caribbean, Name is often saved for special occasions and is considered a festival food in Cuba. Extremely versatile, Name can be baked, boiled, steamed, scalloped, fried or creamed.
A classic round-rooted carrot with an outstanding flavour and lovely crunchy texture.Originally from France, these carrots are wonderfully tender with a very smooth skin.
Purple Dragon Carrot
Their unique color reflects their healthy phytochemical constituents. Not only does the Purple variety have the vitamin A and beta-carotene of ordinary carrots—evident by its orange center—it’s also rich in anthocyanins, the antioxidant compounds that give blueberries their distinctive color and superfood health benefits. Studies have found that these blue and purple pigments can improve memory, enhance vision, protect against heart attacks, act as anti-inflammatories, and even help control weight. The carrot itself is sweet and a little spicy. They are lovely chopped into salads.
White Satin Carrot
This is one of the most mild flavored carrots, with a sweetness to it and a crispy texture. They still share the same nutritional strength of their orange cousins.
Boniato is a relatively unknown root vegetable that originated in Peru and Colombia more than 3,000 years ago. In the U.S. they are mainly grown in southeast Florida. There is no cholesterol in boniato, almost no fat and little protein. This tuber does have a lot of fiber and vitamin C.It is fluffier, drier and less sweet than a traditional sweet potato.
Cranberry Red Potato
Cranberry Red potatoes are an heirloom variety that are also known as ‘all-red’ potatoes. This potato has a brilliant cranberry-red skin with a rosy tie-dyed swirled flesh. Cranberry Red potatoes have a moist texture that is ideal for boiling or sautéing and will hold their rich coloring throughout cooking.
Grown in the Central and Southern Andes, the flavour is slightly tangy and the texture is crunchy until cooked when it can become mealy.Though this colorful root vegetable was originally cultivated in the Andes of South America, it is also sometimes called the “New Zealand yam” due to its popularity there after being introduced in the mid-1800s. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and iron.
There are many different varieties of oca, so the flavors can vary. But in general, they are tangier and sweeter than potatoes, and can range from starchy to almost fruitlike. In fact, the “apricot” variety grown in New Zealand tastes much like its namesake fruit.
Okinawa Sweet Potato
The Okinawan sweet potato is not related to the potato but is actually in the morning glory family. Native to the Americas, it was brought to Japan sometime between 1492 and 1605. The hardy plant grew well in Japan and quickly became popular in a variety of Japanese dishes.When it eventually made its way to the Hawaiian Islands, brought by the Polynesians, the crop flourished in the rich volcanic soil.The primary nutritional benefit, and the one for which Okinawan sweet potatoes are especially prized, is their high antioxidant levels.
The antioxidant known as anthocyanin is the pigment which is responsible for the brilliant purple color of the flesh. It is the same pigment that gives blueberries, red grapes and red cabbage their color. The Okinawan sweet potato actually has 150 percent more antioxidants than blueberries.
Peruvian Purple Potato
Purple potatoes are a type of potato popular in South America, with their origins in Peru and Bolivia. Purple potatoes are very similar to the popular russet potatoes in nutritional value. The one significant difference between purple potatoes and Russet potatoes is the antioxidant content; purple potatoes contain 4 times as much antioxidants as Russet potatoes.
This root serves as the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world. The root is long and tapered, and the vegetable is also referred to as Yuca. When raw, Cassava tastes like a mix between potato and coconut, but once it is cooked it takes on a delicate flavor and could replace potatoes in many dishes.
Peruvian parsnip; They have a slightly sweet, nutty flavour, like a cross between celeriac and chestnut. Though used widely as a culinary analog for potato (roasted, boiled, soups, pastas, gnocchi, chips etc…) it requires considerably less cultivation inputs whether it be fertiliser or effort spent heaping and mounding.
TigerNuts are not nuts, but tubers, small root vegetables which comprised up to 80% of our Paleo ancestors’ diet around 2 million years ago. This ancient superfood originates from Africa. It is currently cultivated in West Africa and the mediterranean. TigerNuts are a good source of Resistant Starch, a prebiotic fiber that resists digestion and becomes fuel for our probiotic bacteria. One ounce of TigerNuts has 40% of our daily recommended fiber.
Note: While they offer a load of benefits, portion control is still important when it comes to root vegetables, especially if you’re struggling to reach and maintain a healthy weight, stabilise blood sugar, reduce overall sugar in your diet, or reverse and treat diabetes.