Root vegetables have been staple items in kitchens over the years due to their low cost, nutritious value, accessibility and they store well. There is a large world of root vegetables to explore beyond the carrot, potato, onion, and beet. Though they might not be the most attractive item in the grocery store they are worth bringing to the kitchen table. I love these underground treasures because they are hearty and can be used in place of carbohydrate such as pasta and rice. My favorite way to eat root veggies is by roasting them!
When shopping for root vegetables look for ones that are heavy for their size and are firm. Do not buy if they are shriveled, bruised, or have any tender spots. They are best stored in a cool, dark area. They usually last for around two weeks. They are considered a winter vegetable, though you can usually find them in the grocery store year round.
Roots are best described as vegetables that have fleshy edible underground parts. If we let them grow they would provide nourishment to the plant in order for the plant to survive. Root vegetables can also be thought of as storage organs enlarged to hold energy in the form of carbohydrates. There are three main types of roots: true roots (which include taproots and tuberous roots), modified plant stems (which include rhizomes, corms, and stem tubers), and bulbs.
We are most familiar with these as they are the main part of the plant that absorbs nutrients and moisture as it grows vertically downward. Examples of taproots include:
These are enlarged modified lateral roots that function as storage organs. Examples of tuberous roots include:
- Sweet potato
Also known as creeping rootstocks. It is a fleshy horizontal plant stem that spreads below the soil surface and forms leaves above and thin roots below. If a rhizome is separated into pieces, each piece would be able to produce a new plant, which is known as vegetable reproduction. Examples of rhizomes include:
Is a short, swollen underground or underwater plant stem whose inner structure is made up of solid tissue. Corms differ from bulbs in that they have a solid interior, where bulbs are made up of individual layers. Examples of corms include:
- Water Chestnut
This is a swollen underground storage organ that forms from a thickened rhizome. The top and/or sides of the tuber produce shoots that grow into stems and leaves, while the underside produces roots. Tubers are known for storing large amounts of starch. Examples of stem tubers include:
- Jerusalem Artichoke
A bulb is a short stem with fleshy leaves that function as food storage organs during dormancy. Examples of bulbs include: