Winter is prime time for roots – root vegetables, that is. And if your menu just sticks around potatoes, carrots and radishes, you have some exploring to do. Turnips, parsnips, beets, Jerusalem artichoke and the like might look a little weird on the market shelves, but they’ll tantalize your taste buds with sharp, nutty, bitter or sweet flavors you’ll never find in a potato. They pack a nutritional punch (great for winter immunity), offer lots of fiber and spice up your regular veggies without any effort.
But some of them might be a little unfamiliar, so we’re here to help, with a vegetable glossary that delves right down into the – well – roots.
Looks like: Round globe either red or golden, depending on variety, with red stalks
Taste: Bold, sweet
Eat it: Raw (grated in salads) or cooked (boiled, soup). You can also eat the leaves like spinach.
Nutrition: Some vitamin C and iron
Fun fact: Use leftover cooking water to dye homemade pasta red, Italian-style.
Looks like: Baseball-size brown globe with white center and cilantro-like stems
Family: Apium. Celeriac is a type of celery grown for its roots
Taste: Like celery or parsley
Eat it: Cooked (sautéed, roasted, soup)
Nutrition: Some vitamin C, calcium and iron
Fun fact: Celery was originally grown as an herb.
Looks like: A big white carrot
Taste: Sweet, slightly anise
Eat it: Raw (grated in salads or as crudité) or cooked (roasted, mashed, soup)
Nutrition: High vitamin C, minimal iron and calcium
Fun fact: Arrived in America with the colonists, and was prized for caloric decadence.
Looks like: Giant white carrot
Family: Raphanus – it’s a kind of radish
Taste: Mild verging on bland
Eat it: Raw (salads, grated, Asian soups)
Nutrition: High vitamin C
Fun fact: An Asian vegetable, it’s used in Japan for pickles, condiments and preserving food.
Looks like: Knobbly light-brown root
Family: Helianthus, sometimes called a sunchoke (not an artichoke at all.) You eat the root, but the stalks grow tall with yellow flowers in summer.
Taste: Sweet, nutty
Eat it: Raw (sliced thin) or cooked (stewed, roasted, mashed, puréed)
Nutrition: High iron, some vitamin C, thiamin and niacin
Fun fact: These are traditionally thought to produce gas. Try for yourself.
Looks like: Big, round and white-brown
Family: Fabaceae, a vine also called yam bean
Taste: Slightly peppery
Eat it: Raw (julienned in salads or condiment for Mexican food) or cooked (roasted, fried)
Nutrition: High vitamin C
Fun fact: A Mexican native, jicama also has become popular in Asia.
Looks like: A small, mutant sci-fi cabbage, greeny-white center
Family: Brassicae, with a bulb grown above ground
Taste: Mild, like cabbage
Eat it: Cooked (stir-fried, stewed, soups), eat leaves, too
Nutrition: High vitamin C, some potassium
Fun fact: Eat small ones (less than two inches round) for sweetness.
Looks like: A big radish with pink top and white bottom
Family: Brassicae root crop
Taste: Slightly bitter, choose small ones for sweetness
Eat it: Raw (grated in salads) or cooked (stewed, roasted, mashed – don’t overcook)
Nutrition: High vitamin C, some calcium
Fun fact: Grown by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, used to feed livestock in England and to carve Halloween lanterns in Scotland and Ireland.
Looks like: Long and thin, white center
Taste: Peppery and hot, like wasabi
Eat it: Raw, grated and mixed with vinegar or tomato sauce as a condiment
Nutrition: Extremely high vitamin C; some calcium and iron
Fun fact: Was originally considered a drug, and used to cure coughs and scurvy. One of the five bitter herbs of the Jewish Passover.
Looks like: A cross between a turnip and a cabbage
Family: Brassicae, root crop
Taste: Mild to pungent
Eat it: Raw (sliced thin) or cooked (roasted, mashed, soup)
Nutrition: Very high vitamin C; some calcium and iron
Fun fact: The name comes from the Swedish meaning “round root.”
Looks like: A yam – long, fat, reddish-brown but orange on inside
Family: Convolvulaceae, related to morning glories (not yams)
Taste: Sweet, nutty
Eat it: Cooked (roasted, mashed, fried, soup)
Nutrition: Very high vitamin A and C; some iron, vitamin E, protein
Fun fact: A Native American root and the main source of nourishment for early homesteaders and Revolutionary War soldiers
Looks like: A sweet potato – long, fat, reddish-brown but white on inside
Family: Dioscoreacae, related to lilies and grasses
Eat it: Cooked (roasted, mashed, soup)
Nutrition: Medium vitamin C and carbohydrates; some vitamin B6, A and iron
Fun fact: These are African and Asian roots; what’s labeled as yams in American stores is usually a kind of white sweet potato.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 firstname.lastname@example.org