Root Vegetables

Get familiar with these Root Vegetables

Beets are closely related to the sugar beet and hence are very sweet and somewhat earthy in flavor. And are great shredded and eaten raw on salad, as well as boiled, baked, roasted, steamed, pickled and juiced. The young leaves and stems are tender and a wonderful source of iron and calcium, more than spinach. They are also packed with Vitamins A and C.

Carrots are among the most popular root vegetables available. Bright orange, sweet and crisp they are eaten raw and cooked. Packed with Beta Carotene and Vitamin A there is a bit of caution to be taken about over indulging in too much carrot juice. People have been know to turn bright orange themselves from a superfluity of the sweet juice, thinking they were doing themselves a healthful turn. At your vegetarian kitchen we suggest ‘all things in moderation’ including Carrot Juice.

For a sir fry or our Carrot Coriander Tofu Quiche cut them Nituki style. Thinly slice them on the diagonal to expose more of their inner cellular structure. Stack the slices up and cut them into long matchstick shapes. For soups or steamed veggies, cut four or five thin ‘V’ shape channels along the length of the vegetable before slicing them thinly. This will produce pretty flower shapes.

Cassava, Manioc, Yucca are all the same plant. It is used to make Tapioca and is a great thickener for sauces and stews. In Africa and the West Indies it is used as a vegetable and can be found boiled, baked or fried. Also it is cooked and pounded into dough and made into a pudding called ‘fufu’.

Celeriac is the root of some varieties of Celery plant so it definitely qualifies as a root vegetable. It is globular and knobby. It has a less pronounced flavor than celery and is excellent in broths, soups, stir fries and stews. Where celery may take over the flavor of a dish, Celerian will enhance it. Sliced thinly with potato and prepared au gratin, celeriac is a superb addition to a meal. It can also be shredded and used in salad when soaked in acidulated water so that it does not discolor.

Daikon is a white radish root vegetable. Crisp, bitey and superb in salad – either shredded or sliced. It can also be added to stir fry or steamed lightly for Sushi.

Ginger is a spice which compliments both sweet and savory foods. Dried ground or powdered it is often used in baking and puddings, however if you are working with a stir fry, a savory curry or sauce you will need to use fresh ginger. Peeled and sliced or grated it is a great compliment for fresh garlic in many dishes. Also medicinally, when grated into boiling water and served with fresh lemon juice it will relieve menstrual cramping.

Horseradish is a long fibrous root vegetable prized for its sharp taste and ability to clear sinus cavities. A small amount shredded and mixed with whipping cream and a tad of sugar, vinegar and mustard it is fabulous when added to your mashed potatoes or incorporated into a sauce including Tomato Ketchup and served with Soy Shrimp from Taiwan!

Jicama is also known as the Mexican Potato. It is a large root vegetable indigenous to Central America and has a slightly sweet, crisp, crunchy flesh. Wonderful peeled and cut into small pieces when used in salad along with sliced oranges, cucumber and sprinkled with crushed red pepper. They can also be cooked like potatoes and eaten in the same ways.

Jerusalem Artichokes are not properly a ‘choke’ at all and they have nothing to do with Jerusalem. Unlike the Globe Artichoke which is a member of the thistle family, Jerusalem Artichokes grow underground and have a bright yellow blossom which follows the sun. This root vegetable has a distinctive flavor. They are used as you would any other tuber and can be boiled, baked, braised, sautéed or fried. They turn an amazing purplish hue when exposed to air so you will want to get them into acidulous RO water as soon as possible. They can be boiled in their jackets and slipped out of them when cooked.

Parsnips are an ancient root vegetable with a history that probably predates Roman times. When the Legions conquered Gaul they discovered that the parsnips from the north had a sweeter flavor than their usual fare, which is probably where the first suggestion that they not be eaten until after the first frost came from. In the Middle Ages parsnip jam and puddings took advantage of their sugar content. When you purchase them for soups and stews use smaller ones as the large ones tend to be woody and fibrous.

Potatoes are a staple in the modern world and have a wide popularity in such far flung places as India and Pakistan, Ireland, Europe and North America. However, it was not always so. The Presbyterian Scotts found them to be daemonic because they grew underground! And there was, of course, no mention of them in the Scriptures.

Potatoes are native to South America and were scorned in Europe as poor people’s food for many years until a French pharmacist named Parmentier convinced King Louis XVI to allow him to grow the plants on the royal lands around Versailles and subsequently designed a court feast which featured the new root in every course. If you find a menu or a recipe with the word ‘Parmentier’ in it, it means that it is made with potatoes.

The most versatile vegetable in your vegetarian kitchen, potatoes can be baked, boiled, chipped, fried, grated, home fried, riced, roasted, sautéed, steamed, stir fried and mashed.

You will want to purchase Organic Potatoes whenever you can. And yes, of course, there are numerous varieties of them. In fact there are more than 400 varieties grown around the world. To mention just a few:

Idaho Potatoes are perfect for baking and stuffing.

Yukon Gold Potatoes are a creamy yellow with a firm close flesh. Great for Potato Salad, Roasting and Parsley Potatoes.

Russet Potatoes mash well and have a more mealy texture. They are excellent for boiling, mashing and frying. They are great in stews.

Linzer Delikatess Potatoes are smallish kidney shaped roots with a pale smooth skin. Often they are marketed as New Potatoes. Their flavor is bland and their flesh is yellow and firm. They are great in salads and boiled, skinned and tossed with fresh parsley butter.

The Purple Congo is a novelty potato which retains its bright purple color when boiled and served with butter or cut into a festive salad.

Neeps, Swedes, Turnips, Navets and Rutabaga a turnip by any other name would fain taste as sweet. In some parts of the country the white turnip is fed to the cattle and the yellow rutabaga is eaten by the people and in another part of the country the exact opposite is the case. Swedes, which are small white turnips, are called Neeps in Scotland. Navets are French turnips tinged with pink or purple.

Sweet Potatoes and Yams are often confused and used interchangeably. However they are distinctly different root vegetables.

The Sweet Potato comes from tropical America and is distinctive in its sweet spicy creaminess. Their skin color ranges from ruddy to white and is most often found to be a pinky brown. Their flesh is creamy and almost whitish. Often candied, they can also be baked, roasted, boiled and shredded raw in salad. They are frequently incorporated into a Caribbean pudding along with fresh coconut, cinnamon and lime juice or boiled, mashed and baked into a pie or cake. When you peel them put them in lemon water to prevent their oxidation and turning brown. Similarly boiling them in slightly acidified (lemon) water will help to prevent them from turning brown.

Yams on the other hand come from China and have a somewhat different texture and flavor. Their skin is usually a red-brown and covered with whiskery roots. They are very often enjoyed in a spicy curry and have an affinity for spice. Use them baked, boiled, mashed, sautéed or fried. They have a poison just under the skin (dioscorine) which is destroyed in the cooking process. However, when you are peeling them they need to be peeled carefully wearing rubber gloves and discard the skins. To prevent discoloration, once they are peeled they should be placed in acidulated water – with lemon juice - or salt.

Salsify or Oyster Plant is a root vegetable with a white or brownish skin and flesh with a creamy texture. They need to be cleaned under running water and peeled using a sharp knife or peeler. Place peeled roots in acidulated water to prevent discoloration. Cut into short lengths and simmer until tender, add to soups and stews or cooled and marinated in a vinaigrette for salad.

Taro also has a toxin under the skin and can cause an allergic reaction. Peel thickly using rubber gloves or boil in their skins. This root vegetable soaks up all the liquid you can give them so they are great in soups and stews. They are often found in casseroles and are used as a thickening agent adding bulk and flavor. They become sticky and unpleasant if you allow them to cool so they must be served hot. Boil them, bake them, steam them, deep fry or puree them and use them in fritters.

We hope you have identified the next root vegetable you are going to get familiar with! Feel free to email us your favorite recipe using one (or more) of these common and not so common root vegetables.

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