As I perused the stalls of our amazing indoor Farmer’s Market, I realized that I should be a tad bit ashamed. I’m quick to buy apples, pears, lettuces, broccoli, squash and the occasional brussel sprout stalk, but I have, admittedly, neglected the weird veggies.
The ones with names like rutabaga (isn’t that a make of car), celeriac (is that a disease?) and parsnip (I really don’t know…).
Here I am, sticking to the safe veggies that most Americans know how to prepare (or at least identify), but there are some amazing (and cheap!) veggies that I have neglected for most of my adult life (with the exception of some radishes in my salad every once in a blue moon).
That all ends today.
And I have a sneaky suspicion that the majority of you reading this could not differentiate between a Jicama (pronounced “hick-uh-muh”. Don’t ask.) and a Jerusalem artichoke.
Well, here’s a handy dandy guide to get you started!
In general, you’ll want to store these root veggies un-washed and in cool, dark places. Many of them are quite starchy, so if you store them for a long period of time, they tend to get softer and the starch converts to sugar, making them a little sweeter.
Here are some of the more common “weird” root veggies you’ll find as the weather gets colder and the grocery stores fill with winter veggies…
These are fairly easy to recognize, (in my opinion) but they’re an unsung hero of the veggie world! If you roast these right, they’re incredibly sweet and will almost carmelize in the pan. You don’t need to peel them; the skin will slip right off after they’re cooked, but wash them well, trim off the ends, and you’re ready to go! (and save the greens for a smoothie or pizza topping! They’re quite strong, but are packed with vitamins!)
Why you’ll want to eat them: they contain large amounts of “potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid. These are but a few of the many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can be found in beets and beet greens. Beets are particularly beneficial to women whom are pregnant, as the vitamin B and iron are very beneficial to new growth cells during pregnancy and replenishing iron in the woman’s body” source
What they taste like: they’re sweet yet earthy, and they make a great addition to salads or red meat dishes. You can also roast or steam them, and throw them into fruit smoothies for a nice pink color and some added nutrition! (p. s. I’ve been known to sneak mashed beets into brownies for the kids. shhhh…)
These aren’t from Jerusalem and they’re not an artichoke. I know, not exactly user-friendly, but they’re in the evergreen family and grown in the central regions of North America. They’re massive plants with large flowering heads and are related to sunflowers. However, it’s the roots of the plants that youlll find in the produce department.
Why you’ll want to eat them: Jerusalem artichokes have incredibly high levels of dietary fiber and high levels of potassium, iron and copper. They have trace amounts of vitamin C and A, but FYI, they’re starchy and high in calories, like a white potato.
What they taste like: It’s like a cross between a radish and an artichoke. If that doesn’t help you, just know that they’re slightly sweet and earthy but very crunchy, and mild enough to be a versatile addition in many dishes – soups, stews, stir fry, salads, veggie trays, and even thinly sliced on deli sandwiches. They’re not a nutritional powerhouse like some of the other root veggies here, but they add great texture and filler.
That vegetable with a Spanish sounding name. It’s grown mostly in central and south America, but it’s a frugal veggie and is fairly easy to find in the produce section.
Why you’ll want to eat them: Jicama is rich in vitamin C and is one of the highest root-sources of dietary fiber, and it’s low in calories. It’s also a great source of copper and iron, with trace amounts of magnesium and manganese.
What they taste like: Jicama is almost fruit-like in it’s sweetness, and so it makes a great raw snack for kids. It’s very crunchy and surprisingly juicy and dense. The skins are tough, so peel and compost those, but the insides stay crunchy while cooked, so they make great stir fry additions and they’re yummy in salads or on sandwiches. Shy away from using them in soups and stews…unless you’re the type that likes crunchy soup…
Keep an eye out for white carrots. They taste nothing like their orange cousins, but they look like an albino version of that popular veggie. Parsnips, particularly the thinner ones that are less than 2″ in diameter, tend to be quite tender and sweet.
Why you’ll want to eat them: They’re very high in Folate, Potassium, Vitamins C, E and K, and Manganese
What they taste like: Parsnips are a great addition to, or substitution for potatoes. They’re dense and somewhat starchy and have a sweet nutty taste when roasted. Throw them into a roast, your favorite soup, eat them alone, or eat them raw, shredded thinly and tossed into salads for a hearty filler.
Don’t let the oafy-sounding name fool you! Rutabagas are another underestimated and versatile (and frugal) vegetable with many uses!
Why you’ll want to eat them: Rutabagas are a great source of zinc, vitamin C and fiber.
What they taste like: They have fewer carbs than potatoes, but they’re rather dense and mild when roasted, so they make a great substitute. You can also dice them and add them to salads for a crunchy, hearty addition, or slice them for dipping in sauces or hummus.
Turnips are in the cabbage family, though they look nothing like a cabbage. They’ll be white and pink colored bulbs, and if you can find them with the leaves still on, don’t throw them away – those can be steamed or sauteed as well for a yummy side dish!
Why you’ll want to eat them: Turnips are a great source for calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C, A and K.
What they taste like: Turnips are considered a starchy vegetable, so they’re somewhat dense and hold up well to mashing. If you married the flavors of a carrot and a potato, you end up with a turnip. Weird I know, but they taste rather bland on their own, so they’re great mixed with other veggies, thrown into soups, or marinated and roasted.
Oh, but that’s not all! Now that you can identify these underestimated tubers, here are a few of my favorite root-veggie recipes to get you started using these produce anomalies:
Jicama slaw with honey lime vinaigrette (but nix the canola oil and use olive oil)
Do you have a favorite root veggie recipe? please do share in the comments!!!