Even though they grow beneath the ground, root vegetables are differentiated from other vegetables because their entire root system qualifies as the vegetable itself. They are also known as winter vegetables because they can be planted late in the season and left in the ground well into fall. The root is the key factor in determining which vegetable is a root vegetable. When a seed germinates, it sends a taproot into the soil to look for water and nutrients. As the visible portion of the vegetable grows above ground, it is directing most of the food it creates through photosynthesis into the root, causing it to grow. This taproot is now storing most of the vegetable’s nutrients which are then passed on to whomever eats the root vegetable. Carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, beets, and radishes are all root vegetables and may be eaten in many different ways.
Look for solid, unblemished vegetables when shopping. Root vegetables become tender and deeply flavored when cooked slowly in a bit of liquid. You can cook one kind or, better yet, a mixture of root vegetables for a hearty side dish or casual vegetarian main dish. They can be boiled, roasted, baked, or steamed. To cook, scrub or peel the vegetable and cut into bite-sized chunks. They can then be added to meats when roasting, or covered with water or broth and boiled on the stove top, or steamed in a colander. All root vegetables (except radishes) can be cooked and eaten whole or mashed and added to soups and stews.
Take advantage of all the root vegetable that are available now and try this delicious and easy recipe from the Food Network website, www.foodnetwork.com.
Roasted Root Vegetables
- 8 to 12 slender carrots, peeled and trimmed
- 8 to 12 baby turnips, peeled
- 6 to 8 fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and cut lengthwise in halves
- 1 or 2 large parsnips, peeled, trimmed, and cut diagonally into 1-inch-thick slices
- 1 or 2 medium onions, trimmed, peeled and halved, each 1/2 cut into quarters
- 1 or 2 large beets, peeled and cut into thick wedges
- 1 or 2 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into thick wedges
- 1 celery root, trimmed and halved, halves cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices
- 1 whole head garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled
- 2 or 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, sage, or thyme
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Put all the vegetables and the herb sprigs in a large baking dish. Season well with salt and black pepper, drizzle generously with olive oil, and toss them with your hands to coat them evenly.
- Put the baking dish in the preheated oven and cook, stirring the vegetables occasionally, until they are tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serve the vegetables from their baking dish or transfer them to a platter to accompany a roasted main course.