Root Vegetables 101

October 28, 2013

Now is the time to try a new root veggie. As the weather gets cooler, root veggies will give you the comforting nutrition that you need.

What are root vegetables? Roots or plant parts that grow underground, and are edible. Root vegetable categories include tubers, rhizomes, taproots, corms and bulbs.

How to buy: Look for smooth-skinned choices with few blemishes that are firm to the touch. Some roots like turnips, beets, fennel or celery, also have edible stalks or green tops which are nutritious. Tubers are not roots but stem tubers are. Rhizomes are stems, as their roots grow horizontally (ginger, arrowroot, ginseng); tuberous roots are turnip, cassava, sweet potatoes; corms and bulbs are underground plant stems (garlic, shallots, fennel); Asian root veggies are galangal, lotus root, daikon, and Chinese water chestnut.

How to store: Always discard plastic bags and store in a cool dark cupboard with some ventilation. Most tubers can be stored up to 3 months; others should be used within 1 month. Overlong storage increases the starch and sugar and reduces valuable nutrients.

How to use: It is imperative to thoroughly wash, with a scrub brush, before using. Do not soak and do not clean before storage. Well-cleaned skins are not only edible, they offer extra fiber and valuable nutrients. Root veggies can be baked, fried, sautéed or steamed and take very well to seasonings.

Health Benefits: Very low in fat and calories yet excellent source of protein and phytonutrients. The more intense the color, the more nutrients (beets, purple kohlrabi, carrots, purple potatoes). Root veggies have a medium GI rating (sweet potatoes, boiled potatoes, yams, onions, raw carrots, beets.) When baked or mashed- potatoes, parsnips, carrots and rutabagas have a high GI rating.