Stay Grounded: 8 Down-to-Earth Root Veggies to Love

“March is a month of considerable frustration…,” begins a quote by plant lover Thalassa Cruso. I couldn’t agree with Ms. Cruso more. No longer winter, not yet spring, March has the potential to frustrate food lovers and gardeners alike. So what’s a localavore, or anyone wanting to eat fresh and seasonally to do? Be patient and content in the present moment. Spring will get here when she gets here. Winter will go when she’s ready. In the meantime, enjoy what Mother Nature does have to offer, and it might already be sitting in your fridge. 

Roots + GarlicSpring is just around the corner, but before you go lusting into the future after sexy, imported spring veggies, how about pausing in the present to check out the dependable, yet desirable turnips waiting patiently in your produce drawer?

Here in the American Midwest, where fresh local produce is still weeks away, it can be ever-so-tempting to pick up a bunch of asparagus shipped in from Mexico. I admit I will get impatient and do just this, but the root vegetables that may be wintering in your fridge (or root cellar if you’re lucky enough to have one) are begging to shine. At the moment, my fridge contains no fewer than three watermelon radishes, two pounds of carrots, and enough turnips for a creamy mash. And they need to be appreciated.

Sometimes, you just need a bit of inspiration to turn that pumpkin into a chariot. Here, in my opinion, are the top eight most fabulous roots (in no particular order) and some good reasons to give them a twirl.

In addition to the cooking hints I give below, you can’t go wrong enjoying any of these roots in my Roasted Root Vegetables.

1. Watermelon radish – A local farmer’s market darling, (Brooke & Dan from Urbavore Farm here in Kansas City, MO must grow TONS of these beauties!) the watermelon radish is a breath of fresh air in late winter. It’s a bit unassuming on the outside, but cut into one and you’ll see how it gets it’s name; the inside is deep fuchsia, speckled, and looks like a juicy watermelon. Add to your crudité platter, toss thinly sliced into salads, impress your friends by topping slices with egg salad or hummus as a fancy-schmancy, yet easy-peasy appetizer, or roast them (yes, roast them!). Watermelon radishes are a rich source of antioxidants, particularly zeaxanthin, lutein and beta-carotene, which are known for promoting healthy vision.

watermelon radish up close

2. Turnips – I am in LOVE with turnips, especially the voluptuous, old-fashioned Gold Ball variety. Their flavor is slightly bitter, which I think is why I’m such a fan. Turnips make a comforting mash – but because of the bitterness, I like to mix them with Yukon Gold potatoes and a bit of red onion. Steam the turnips, ‘taters and onion until cooked, then mash! A bit of butter or ghee is a must J. Turnips are a great source of fiber and vitamin C.

3. Sweet potatoes – A true workhorse in the kitchen, sweet potatoes can be baked, roasted, mashed, made into soup and turned into dessert. Orange-fleshed varieties such as the heirlooms Jewel and Garnet are farmer’s market dandies, while Beauregard is likely on your super market shelf. But it’s worth seeking out the elegant, white O’Henrys (which taste like a toasted marshmallow when baked or roasted) as well as the vibrant purple varieties. In case you need another reason to love these gems, they’re often touted as a super food – high in fiber (eat the skin) antioxidants and minerals.


4. Leeks – Ah, the lovely, long and leggy leek. Sliced and sautéed on their own as a simple side dish, tucked into omelets or stirred into scrambled eggs, their subtle onion flavor goes well with another of my favorites – a drizzle (or spoonful) of white truffle oil. They make potato soup extra special, too. Leeks are a great source of vitamins and phytonutrients that protect your eyes.


5. Beets - Yes, beets taste like dirt, so apparently, I love dirt. I find wrapping these dirty babies in foil—skin and all—and roasting on a high temperature (guess that’s really steaming?) is the easiest way to go. Let them cool and the skins will slip off easily. Slice and toss with dirty-minded ingredients such as walnuts, fresh herbs, feta cheese or oranges. Once they’re peeled and cut, you’re also ready to whip up a jar of Quick Pickled Beets. The nutritional benefits of these colorful gems are plentiful – they’re a good source of folate and magnesium, a cure for constipation and protection against colon cancer, just to name a few. Don’t ditch the greens; they’re worthy of your attention and probably more nutrient-dense than their bulbs. Try cooking the root and leafy tops together in my recipe for Beets and Greens. See how to make both of these beet recipes, as well as a racy beet cocktail in my What about Beets video.

Colorful Beets

6. Carrots – Carrots are the girlfriends of the vegetable world: underappreciated and taken for granted! Regular ole’ carrots are great, but check out some of the other colorful varieties. Did you know they come in purple, red, white and yellow, in addition to orange? Roast ‘em, puree into soup (Gingery Carrot Soup), and shred into muffins. Carrots are low-cal, high-fiber, and it’s true, good for your eyes.

Colorful Carrots

7. Sunchokes (0r Jerusalem artichokes) Warning: I find sunchokes highly addictive, but they make many people fart because they contain a certain kind of carb called inulin. Unsexy, but true. Nevertheless, they are absolutely delicious roasted with lemon and thyme. You’ll often see cooks instructing you to leave them raw, slice thinly, and add to salads. Proceed at your own risk; I can’t imagine trying to digest these little devils in their uncooked state. They also have a good reputation for being great in soup – let me know if you have a favorite recipe. Like most roots, sunchokes are a good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and also act as a prebiotic, which is good for gut health.

8. Celeriac – This mysterious root probably has the fewest names on her dance card. And what a shame. A big, knobby, brown bulb, celeriac – aka celery root – has a flavor often described as a cross between her sexier sisters celery and parsley. Like most roots, she’s tasty roasted or mashed with potatoes, but my favorite way to enjoy this ugly duckling is rich, creamy, and in the raw in this Celeriac and Green Apple Soup, courtesy of what I consider to be my raw food bible – Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis’ Raw Food Real World. The dead of winter is probably the wrong time of year to be eating an uncooked soup, but I won’t tell your Ayurvedic doctor if you don’t tell mine. Celeriac contains anti-cancer properties and is a good source of Vitamin K and phosphorus.

Our summer flings with verdant snap peas, luscious squash blossoms, and shapely eggplants will be here soon enough, but there’s no need to merely bide our time. Prepared well, these root veggies will have us longing for late winter instead of hoping to escape it.

Nutritional information from

This post was published by Elephant Journal

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