As the name suggests, root vegetables refer to those edible plants that grow underground. The root is an essential organ of these veggies as it helps store energy in them. This energy exists in the form of carbohydrates, minerals, proteins, and vitamins and is one of the major reasons why so many root vegetables are consumed by humans.
Many people do not find root crops as appealing, given their unimpressive growth process which mostly takes place underground. That being said, root crops are crisp, vibrant, and nourishing vegetables with both their top and roots being super flavorsome. It is also interesting to note that they have been enjoyed by the rich and noble from the beginning of time. The early civilizations of Mediterranean Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America have taken pleasure in cultivating their own root vegetables in their gardens and backyards.
Even before they learned to produce their own underground plants, they scoured for these healthy veggies in the wild. The fact that these plants have been popular for more than 5000 years speaks volumes about their significance in one’s diet.
In this blog post, we’ve shed light upon different types of root vegetables, their health benefits, and other important facts that every reader must know about.
Also known as white turnip, turnips belong to the mustard family (Brassicaceae) and were originated in middle and eastern Asia. The turnip is a fast-growing plant that grows best in cool seasons. Therefore, the crops are sown in late summers or early spring so that they grow rapidly before the hot months of summers.
Both young and mature turnips are useful as they are consumed raw in both pickles and salads. The young leaves can also be cooked and mixed in a wide range of dishes such as mashed potatoes and stews.
Turnips are one of the most flavor-packed vegetables that have been cultivated for over centuries. Owing to their excellent nutrient profile, they are eaten raw or cooked all over the world. High in vitamin C, these cruciferous veggies help boost the immune system and keep respiratory infections at bay. Studies also show that the regular consumption of these nutritious plants decreases the risk of various cancers related to stomach, breast, lung or colorectal.
If you are short of potatoes, you can replace this vegetable with turnips. Consider making turnip fries, salad, or coleslaw.
Belonging to the bindweed or morning glory family (Convolvulaceae), sweet potatoes are slightly sweet and starchy veggies. Due to their soft, orange appearance, sweet potatoes are sometimes called a “yam” in various parts of North America. However, these root veggies are very different from the botanical yam – native to Asia and Africa and are part of the monocot family. A distant relative of potatoes, the young leaves, and shoots of sweet potatoes are often eaten as healthy greens.
They are another type of flavorful root vegetables that are choked-full of health benefits. These root veggies are highly rich in fiber, manganese, vitamins (vitamin A and vitamin C) and various antioxidants (beta-carotene, anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid etc).
A result of three studies concluded that having 4 grams of white sweet potato extract every day for about 2 months helps improve blood sugar level among diabetic patients. Owing to their high vitamin A content, a few studies recommend that this root vegetable may also keep the immune system intact, supporting skin health and protecting against vision problems.
This edible root vegetable, belonging to the Brassicaceae family, is popularly used in salads for a crunchy bite and aesthetic appeal. Out of all the root veggies, radishes are easy to plant and grow which is why they are the first choice for novice vegetable cultivators. The skin color of their roots widely ranges from white to pink to red to green to yellow to purple to black. The roots obtain these different hues from the process of anthocyanins. However, the flesh tends to be usually white.
While radishes are cultivated to make the most of their unique flavor and nutrients, they are, sometimes, also grown for the extraction of oil. Besides these incredible properties, radishes are super healthy as well. First of all, radishes packed with dietary fiber which helps treat digestion problems. They also serve as a natural cure for treating common cold and cough in the winter season.
Since they are full of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, and other minerals, radishes also support the immune system. These root vegetables also keep blood pressure in control by maintaining the level of sodium-potassium in the body.
Also known as the turnip-rooted celery, knob celery, or celery root, celeriac is a type of celery that is grown for its edible stem and shoots. First originated in the Mediterranean Basin, celeriac is commonly cultivated in the Mediterranean Basin and Northern Europe. Some other regions where it is grown are Siberia, North Africa, North America, and Southwest Asia.
Celery root is consumed both raw and cooked; in today’s day and age, the root veggie is used more in its raw form due to its high flavor and increased tenderness. Celeriac is enjoyed in many ways; like roasting, stewing, blanching, or mashing the organic product. Some prefer to have it sautéed in olive oil and then mix it in savory dishes. The flavorsome leaves and stems can also be added in soups and casseroles.
Since it is the powerhouse of various nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants), celeriac promises to offer plenty of health benefits. For example, antioxidants present in celeriac fight against free radicals, preventing them from affecting body cells. By doing so, they keep the body from various conditions such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc.
Scientifically known as Pastinaca sativa, parsnips are a root vegetable closely related to parsley and carrot as they both belong to the Apiaceae family. They tend to grow into cream-toned skin and flesh with long roots. When left to mature properly in winters, the lovely vegetable develops a sweet flavor.
Native to Eurasia and originally cultivated by the Romans, the biennial plant is eaten both raw and cooked for its amazing nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. It is generally believed that eating water-rich food helps control weight. And studies show that parsnip contains about 79.5% of water content which is why this vegetable is considered an effective product for a healthy weight loss diet. In addition to aiding weight loss, parsnips also help reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and inflammation in the body.
Like carrots, parsnips have a sweet flavor with a nutty and earthy undertone, making them versatile enough to be used in a wide variety of dishes such as parsnip hash brown, parsnip and cauliflower soup, salted caramel parsnips, roasted parsnips, and chestnut salads.
Carrots are one of the most popular and common root vegetables that occur mostly in orange shade; however, carrots in red, black, white, purple, or yellow color also exist. Basically, carrots are a domesticated version of the wild carrots – Daucus carota – native to Europe and Southwestern Asia. It is widely believed that this biennial plant was first cultivated in Persia for its tasty leaves and nutritious seeds.
Did you know that carrots weren’t introduced to American cuisine until World War I? It was only after the war that the soldiers brought back the seeds of this wonderful root veggie and included it in various sweet and savory dishes. Today, carrots are also enjoyed in the form of a healthy drink as they offer a broad variety of benefits.
Carrots offer a number of plant compounds such as carotenoids. These are substances that support the immune system and protect against several illnesses such as heart diseases, cancer, and degenerative problems. Some other essential compounds in carrots include Alpha-carotene, beta carotene, lutein, lycopene, anthocyanins, and polyacetylenes. Eating carrots in large quantities can help in lowering blood cholesterol, aiding weight loss, and improving eye health.
Also known as lotus stem, lotus root is a renowned root vegetable which is native to India and China. It is most popularly used in Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines. The veggie has a crunchy and sweet flavor, resembling that of water chestnut.
The admirable quality about this vegetable is that all its parts including the root, seeds, and young flower stalks are edible. The stem boasts green color with a whitish body. And it can be stored for about a week in the refrigerator. Commonly, the lotus root is enjoyed in salads. In many cultures, including American culture, it is mixed in with pork and prawns for delectable taste. One of the most famous dishes with the lotus stem as the main ingredient is the louts stem curry. It is prepared by stir-frying the stems. The curry is best paired with rice or bun.
Lotus stem is an amazing source of dietary fibers, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin C. These healthy nutrients intensify the production of red blood cells in the body and keep the immune system strong.
Crosne is known by many names, such as Stachys affinis, Chinese artichoke, knot root, or artichoke betony. This perennial herbaceous plant originated in China or Japan and is savored in many forms – raw, dried, cooked, or pickled.
What makes this root vegetable distinguishable is its unusual worm-like shape. Boasting brownish white surface, crosne is one of the Asian members of the mint family – Labiatae. Harvesting crosnes is super tedious as doing so requires several hours on hand. It is also a job of professional gardeners as amateurs may not be aware of proper tactics to harvest this edible root veggie.
Before crosnes are put to use, they must be scrubbed well. Peeling is optional. Ensure not to expose them to natural or artificial light as the tubers tend to darken in light and lose their natural flavor. It can be cooked as a side dish; sauté crosnes with butter, garlic, and sliced sunchokes. Add in Italian pepper and cook until tender. Toss in fresh rigatoni pasta and cheese. And tada!
You can also prepare yummy Chinese artichoke soup to warm up your winter season. For that, you will need to cook crosnes with stock and add in freshly cut potatoes. Let it cook on medium heat until tender. And then wrap it up by mixing in cream and cognac.
Bear in mind that crosne is high in sugar and is often classified as a carbohydrate. Hence, it is unhealthy for diabetic patients and they should avoid eating Chinese artichoke altogether.
Commonly known as manioc or yuca, cassava is a starchy tuber that belongs to the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). Originated from the South American forests, manioc is a traditional vegetable in many regions of the world including Asia, Africa, and parts of South America. It is, along with other starch-based foods like taro, yam, and potato, a vital food supplement for many inhabitants living in these areas.
This perennial plant is full of calories, twice than that of potatoes. Hence, it tops the list of high-calorie food. People looking forward to gaining weight must consider having manioc daily in their meals. As compared to potato and yams, cassava tends to have more protein. For a rich source of dietary proteins and vitamin K, leaves of yuca should be eaten raw. This will help in strengthening bones and stimulating cell activities.
Cassava is also packed with minerals like copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and manganese. This root vegetable also has B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, folates, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. All in all, manioc has an excellent nutrient profile which everyone should take advantage of.
Also called German turnip, Kohlrabi is a wild cabbage that is the same species as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, or collard greens. This biennial vegetable is bulbous with layers of leaves attached to it like it is in a cabbage.
Every part of kohlrabi is edible and can be eaten sautéed, steamed, roasted, creamed, or stuffed. Kohlrabi in smaller sizes is sweeter in taste. But as it matures, it develops a flavor similar to that of radish. It is always ideal to opt for recently harvested kohlrabi as it possesses fresh and stiff leaves.
While kohlrabi can be enjoyed in plenty of ways, the nutrition facts that it has been no less. One of the biggest health benefits of kohlrabi is that it improves digestion. It contains oodles of dietary fiber that reduces cramp pain, improve the gastrointestinal system, and treats bloating and constipation. Kohlrabi also helps boost energy levels, regulates blood pressure, and improves bone strength. This is, indeed, a healthier version of cabbage and can be eaten by all types of people as it isn’t a source of allergens.
Belonging to the ginger family, turmeric is one of the most effective root vegetable, ideal for both body and brain. While the exact origination of turmeric is not known, it is widely believed that it originated in Southeast Asia.
For over a thousand years, this flowering plant is a major component of many Asian and Chinese medicines such as Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani. It is also an essential flavoring agent in a number of Asian cuisines, especially curries to which the veggie gives a vibrant yellow color.
Turmeric tends to have a bitter, mustard-like taste which is overpowering if eaten raw. This is why people prefer to mix it in with other ingredients to compensate for its overbearing flavor. Turmeric tends to offer a wide range of health benefits; it helps prevent and perhaps treat cancer symptoms, lowers the risk of heart diseases, prevents Alzheimer’s disease, and also helps cure depression to some extent.
Also known as sunchoke, sunroot, and earth apple, the Jerusalem artichoke is a sunflower species, native to central North America. In most parts of France, the vegetable is used as a stock feed. However, in America, it is not as commonly used; small quantities of the vegetable are used in preparing relishes, pickles, and side dishes.
Despite its name, this veggie has no relation with Jerusalem whatsoever and is also not a type of artichoke. However, both of them are distant members of the daisy family. It is uncertain how the plant got “Jerusalem” as its first name. It is suggested that Italian settlers in the United States called this plant “Girasole” which means sunflower in English. Over time, the name got changed to Jerusalem from Girasole because of the familiar pronunciation.
Jerusalem artichokes are high in nutrients like iron, fiber, potassium, niacin, thiamine, and copper.
Commonly known as greater burdock, Arctium lappa is a Eurasian species of plants in the Aster family. The plant is cultivated in gardens for the purpose of using its edible root which is known to be a type of vegetable. Besides as a type of food, the leaf, root, and seeds of the plant are used as medicine.
Many people consume burdock to kill germs, treat fever, purify the blood, and increase urine flow. Burdock is also used in many OTC creams to treat skin wrinkles, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and ichthyosis. Budrock roots are commonly found in Japanese supermarket where it is popularly known as “gobo”. On the other hand, in the United States, Arctium lappa can only be found in a few selected vegetable markets or in special herb shops.
14. Water Chestnut
Also known as the Chinese water chestnut, water chestnut is native to Asia, China, India, Japan, Philippines, and Australia. Many people mistake this aquatic vegetable for a nut. But the truth is it is not a nut at all. The root vegetable is grown in the mud, marshes, lakes, and sea. Plus, it is slightly crunchy and sweet in taste and is very nutritious in nature.
People looking forward to a healthy lifestyle must ensure that they have these enriching and nourishing vegetables as part of their everyday meals!