From onions to beets and beyond, root vegetables are a colorful and starchy network of foods that grow from the ground up. A root vegetable is defined as an edible plant that grows underground, such as a potato, carrot or onion. Generally, most root vegetables are good sources of potassium, fiber and Vitamins A, B and C, but there are many types, each with distinct characteristics and nutrients.
TYPES OF ROOT VEGETABLES
Bulbs are a type of root vegetable that have a large bulb, in which nutrients are stored. Examples include fennel and onion. Onions are the corner post of endless meals, including salads, soups, casseroles, rice and pasta dishes. Packed with fiber, Vitamin C and antioxidants, onions are a root vegetable to keep stocked. It might surprise you to know that garlic, a close relative to the onion, is considered a root vegetable. It also grows underground in the form of a bulb but unlike most other root vegetables, it is never cooked alone for consumption.
It might surprise you to know that garlic, a close relative to the onion, is considered a root vegetable.
Corms are a lesser-known root vegetable category. They are characterized by short, thick stems and include celery root, water chestnut and taro. Tubers are a kind of root vegetable that grow underground, horizontally. Examples include yams, yucca and potatoes. Potatoes are one of the most popular root vegetables and it’s easy to see why. Cheap, versatile and filling, there are literally hundreds of different varieties of potatoes and endless ways to prepare them, from baking to boiling. Potatoes are delicious on their own, with minimal spices, but they can also take on almost any flavor profile, making them a popular component of many global cuisines.
Lastly, there are root crops, which is what most people think of when they hear of “root vegetables.” These are starchy vegetables and include parsnip, jicama and carrots. Carrots contain carotenoids, a class of naturally occurring pigments that lend many root crops, such as beets and turnip, their bright colors. Root crops are low in calories but have varying levels of sugar, of which beets contain the highest amount.
Tubers are a kind of root vegetable that grow underground, horizontally.
One of the easiest, most classic way to prepare root vegetables is to roast them. This method brings out their sweet flavor and creates a crispy golden exterior. Little else is needed besides olive oil or butter and salt and pepper. Roasting vegetables alongside chicken or meat is easy peasy too – just make sure to add them to the pan about half an hour before the meat is finished cooking.
Root vegetables that are braised (cooked slowly in liquid) become tender and more flavorful. We recommend braising one or a few varieties of vegetables in stock until just tender and starting to brown, then adding your favorite fresh herbs at the end of the cooking process for a pop of fresh flavor.
Root vegetables make an excellent base for soups, traditionally cooked, pureed and enriched with cream. One of the most delicious ways to enjoy any root vegetable is in the form of a chip! Peeled and thinly sliced, then fried until crisp, few snacks are as delicious as homemade chips. To ensure that your vegetable is sliced as thinly as possible, use a mandoline, but exercise extreme caution, ensuring that a blade guard is used.
Of course, there are many other ways to prepare these underground vegetables. Grill them, boil them, or bake them into a gratin.
ONE LAST THING!
While we have touched on various health benefits, it is important to know that root vegetables are starches, which means that they’re rich in carbs. While your body needs these for energy, if you eat more than you need, they’ll be stored as fat. That’s why you should almost think of root vegetables as you would grains, like rice or pasta and enjoy them in moderation.