Root crops are often much maligned among kids – and adults too. Starring as odious villains at dinnertime, many a child has been traumatized by their knobby appearance and unpalatable texture; yet they have remained staples of ethnic foods for years. While the mainstream population eschews these strange vegetables, there is a small subset of gardeners that grow and prepare them. Here’s how you can prepare your root crops to appease even the finickiest of eaters.
How to Incorporate Root Vegetables into Your Diet
Cost has always been a factor in deterring consumers from eating their vegetables, but thanks to their hardy exterior, root crops are cost-effective to grow. To maximize space, consider growing root vegetables in raised garden beds alongside cool-season herbs. Root vegetables are cheap and stalwart, readily available long after more fickle vegetables have vanished. Many are antioxidant rich and packed with restorative nutrients that bolster immune function, lower bad cholesterol, and improve eye health. Starchy root vegetables are commonly mashed or roasted, which lends a natural sweetness that offsets hearty dishes. Complement root vegetables with stews and meats to harmonize flavors.
From Britain to the Americas, turnips have been reviled, scorned from the palate of the sophisticated. It is hard to believe that turnips once supplied the tables of the wealthy. Yet, there is something endearing about the rotund vegetable and its red-mauve flesh. If you enjoy potatoes, but find them too starchy, one option is to substitute them for turnips. Swap potatoes for turnips, and you’ll hardly notice the difference. Try mashing, roasting and cubing, or even slicing them into strips for fries. Don’t forget to serve them in Vego’s serving bowl, designed to match the iconic corrugated exterior of Vego Garden beds.
A savory crop known for its high versatility and delicious flavor, potatoes don’t suffer the stigma associated with other root vegetables. Digging potatoes can be fun, but it can also be a lot of work – facilitate the process using a Hori Hori knife, which allows you to gently lift the potatoes from the ground without exerting much effort. As for preparation, potatoes can be prepared any number of ways, ranging from the comforting mashed potatoes to the more sophisticated potato gratin. Baby potatoes, which should be cooked whole, taste delicious sprinkled with herbs and garlic.
It’s difficult to find a vegetable sorrier looking than the rutabaga, a coarse-looking crop deemed a foodstuff of last resort during periods of famine in Europe. But its unprepossessing appearance belies a tender interior. Like other root vegetables, it is sweetest in midwinter. It can be diced into cubes along with a medley of root vegetables, including parsnips, potatoes, celery root, and carrots, where it is often served with roast pork or beef. Rutabagas are a good source of fiber and potassium, with a single serving meeting more than 50% of the daily recommended vitamin C intake.
It’s often said that the ugliest things are the toughest, and the celeriac is no exception, with a gnarled texture and pallid flesh that brings to mind the monstrous homunculus of alchemy. However, in French cooking, it becomes the unsung hero in celeri remoulade, a side salad tossed with a tangy mayonnaise sauce. It can also be pared down into a silky puree to be blended into soups, and pairs well with pork, roasts, or chicken. A little-known application of celeriac is celeriac and potato röstis, a Swiss dish that is made by frying grated potato into fritters.
Tom Robbins tells readers that, “A tale that begins with a beet must end with the devil.” Literary merits aside, beets have had an unfortunate reputation in the culinary world. Many have said that their taste is akin to dirt, an unfortunate trait ascribed to the compound geosmin. To temper their earthy taste, pair it with warming spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. Beets can be peeled and grated, then used to flavor rice, giving it a bright carnation red. Herbs such as thyme and goat cheese are great additions to beets. Finally, a growing number of vegan sandwich recipes calls for the use of beetroot.
Although not commonly thought of as root vegetables, onions are part of the bulb category of root vegetables. They are usually cooked as a garnish or mixed with other dishes. Raw, fried, or caramelized, onions have become so ubiquitous that virtually every gardener has them at hand. Used in folk remedies to relieve colds, coughs, and catarrh, onions possess antibacterial and anti-viral properties. The difference between sautéing and caramelizing onions is that sauteed onions are cooked at a higher heat while caramelized onions are cooked for a longer time until natural sugars are released.
Parsnips are an elongated root vegetable resembling an ivory-colored carrot, and related to both carrots and parsley. They are sweeter than rutabagas and turnips, with a consistency on par with a sweet potato when cooked. Parsnips are usually boiled rather than eaten raw. The tenderness of their white flesh accords a higher versatility than your usual root vegetable. They can be served with roasts, crisped in the oven, or braised into stews. Midwinter frost will sweeten their taste, so leave it in the ground until then. Nutritionally, parsnips are a good source of potassium.
Carrots are slightly more well received than its bulbous counterparts, but many children still remain averse to them. For picky eaters, baby carrots and smaller varieties are recommended. Glazed baby carrots mixed with onions pair wonderfully with roasts and other heavy dishes. Simply combine water, butter, salt, and brown sugar in a pan and cook until all the water has evaporated. Rainbow carrots, a sensory delight to behold, work well chopped into rounds or roasted whole. Finish with chopped herbs and a garlic dip. Unlike coarser carrots, they are slender enough that they can easily be consumed without causing much consternation. Carrots are high in vitamin A and K, calcium, and fiber.