Filled with flavor and nutrients, root vegetables will keep your taste buds satisfied and your body healthy all winter long. Their versatility in the kitchen allows them to be roasted or mashed, pureed or shaved to suit your culinary needs. Better yet, their long shelf life and affordability means there is no reason not to have a constant supply of these hearty vegetables in your pantry. It’s time to explore beyond the beloved carrot and potato; here are five root vegetables to add to your repertoire.
A member of the chard and spinach family, beets are known not only for their nutritional value and earthy flavor, but also for their powerful ability to stain everything in sight. Sliced thinly, they deliver a sweet and satisfying crunch in salads. Pressed or pureed, they deliver a rich and robust juice, which pairs beautifully with orange and ginger for a morning pick-me-up. Pickled, they compliment potatoes, roasts, or hearty grain dishes.
This root vegetable’s most notable claim to fame is the eastern and central European borscht soup, which combines beets, cabbage and potatoes in a rich beef broth, topped with dill and sour cream. Served alongside rye bread, this is a comforting meal in a bowl. If you find beets with the greens attached, add these to your soup, or sauté them and use as you would spinach; these are particularly rich in calcium, iron, and A and C vitamins. And unless you want your hands pink for the rest of the day, don’t forget to wear gloves!
Contrary to the name, celery root – or celeriac – is not actually the root of the celery most of us are familiar with, though botanically they are very closely related. It’s appearance – a knobby, hairy, beige or brown bulb – is often intimidating to home cooks. To prepare celery root, simply lob off the top and bottom quarter to half inch so that it sits flat on your cutting board. Then using your knife, make curved cuts around the bulb to shave off the dense exterior. The interior pale flesh can be sliced and roasted, mashed, pureed, or when thinly sliced, eaten raw. Celeriac has a sweet, grassy and rich celery flavor. Let the flavor shine with this roasted celery root with walnut and thyme recipe.
Though they may resemble ghostly carrots, parsnips are actually a member of the parsley family. They tend to taste quite sweet and nutty and have a high starch content, making them perfect for purees and creamy soups. Shaved thin and fried, they also make for delicious vegetable chips. Look for parsnips on the smaller or medium sized end of the spectrum; huge parsnips tend to be woody and lacking in flavor. Just like carrots – peeling is optional!
Contrary to popular belief, sweet potatoes and white potatoes aren’t actually in the same family (sweet are a morning glory, while potatoes are a nightshade), though they can be used interchangeably. Further, most yams in the grocery store aren’t true yams, but rather just a variety of sweet potato (for the full story on the difference between the two, read here)! Regardless of name or family, these starchy sweet root vegetables are rich in vitamin A and antioxidants, and are about as versatile as they come. Mashed, fried, roasted or boiled, sweet potatoes are a great addition to any winter meal. Switch up your noodle routine with this recipe for sweet potato mac and cheese.
The mighty turnip is indigenous to the Baltic region, and is one of the world’s oldest domesticated root crops due to the fact that they thrive in poor soil conditions. Belonging to the mustard family, they are sweet and peppery, making them perfect for pickles, stewed in soups, enjoyed raw or oven roasted. Though the roots lack a strong nutritional punch, their leaves contain high levels of vitamin A, C and K, along with calcium, folate and potassium. Mince the leaves to top these parmesan crusted crushed turnips for a unique and satisfying side dish.