Root vegetables are defined by being any fleshy, edible vegetable that grows underground or grows tubular. Grown worldwide, root vegetables differ in their concentration of carbohydrates (sugar and starches). In some countries, those root vegetables high in carbohydrates are viewed as a staple food item. Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes can vary in size and color. Here are a list of lesser used root vegetables, but should be added to your repertoire.
Nutritious, tasting very sweet and earthy, golden varieties have a milder taste than the more common red. Picked between June and November for peak freshness. When buying beets, look for firm and smaller sized, with a smooth skin. Upon purchase, if you trim the green, you can refrigerate the root for up to 3 weeks, in a plastic bag.
High in vitamins A and C, rutabagas have a rich, buttery texture. Considered a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, they grow to approximately 3″ to 5″ in diameter. Peak season is considered to be September through June. Pick those that are smooth, firm and heavy for their size. These can be refrigerated, in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.
Only containing small amounts of vitamin B, calcium and iron, celery root cultivated specifically for its ugly, brown root. Also called celeriac, it tastes like strong celery mixed with potent parsley. Usually available from October through April, it varies in size from that of an apple to a cantaloupe. When buying celery root, look for a small but firm specimen, with a minimum of knobs. The green leaves are usually detached when you buy celery root, but it can be refrigerated for 7-10 days, in a plastic bag.
Very easy to grow, small young turnips have a delicate, slightly sweet taste. As a turnip ages, the flavor becomes stronger and their texture coarser, almost woody. Fresh turnips are available year round, however their peak season is from October to March. Choose heavy for their size turnips, denoting the vegetable being young, avoid those larger than 3″ in diameter. The greens, if attached, should be brightly colored and fresh looking. Turnips are stored best at 55º in a well-ventilated area, such as a root cellar. High in vitamin C and B, they can be boiled or steamed, then mashed or pureed.
As my FAVORITE root vegetable besides potatoes, parsnips provide a pleasant sweet creamy flavor. Fresh parsnips are available year round, but peak period is during the fall and winter. Look for small to medium, well shaped roots. Avoid limp, shriveled or spotted parsnips. They can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks. Try to avoid buying these in pre-packaged clumps as you cannot see the entire vegetable. Parsnips are good for almost any type of cooking, baking, boiling, sauteing and steaming; however, I love making a parsnip and potato soup puree. Parsnips contain small amounts of iron and vitamin C.
I hope you can use some of these root vegetables in your cooking. Maybe you will find some at your local farmer’s markets.