Your Guide to the Best Root Vegetables

Root vegetables are among the stars of the farm as the weather turns cooler. Our summer vegetables—tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers—are only designed by nature to grow in summer. It’s pretty great that nature designed other plants to feed us during other parts of the year. 

Anyone with a garden knows root vegetables are fun to grow. They’re like treasures hiding under the soil, and with some exceptions, until you harvest, you don’t really know what size they’ll be.

Storing Root Vegetables

We also appreciate root vegetables for their storage capacity. We’ll harvest these for a while to come, as needed. When it gets into the deeper cold of winter and all of the root vegetables need to come out of the field, we’ll harvest the rest and put them in cold storage, where they’ll keep just fine until you’re ready to eat them.

When you get root vegetables home, don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. They already had the field dirt rinsed from them when they were brought in from the field. Unless otherwise noted, store your root vegetables in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

If yours arrive with their green tops, chop these off and store them separately. 

Types of Root Vegetables

Carrots

You may find several colors of carrots in the online store and at the farmers market: the traditional orange, and also purple, yellow and rainbow. Years of grocery store shopping has taught us that carrots are orange, but they actually developed from white carrot-like roots in the wild, and early carrots were mostly purple.

It’s not necessary to peel your carrots—a good scrub will do.

We can’t think of a lot of ways not to eat carrots, but if you need some ideas, a few of our favorites include grated into salads or muffins; roasted with maple syrup or herbs as a side dish; blended into soups and smoothies; and sliced raw as a vehicle for hummus. The tops, too, are useful for making pesto and as a substitute for parsley.

Beets

Red beets have a crimson color, sweet ?avor and red-veined leaves. Golden beets have yellow skin and ?esh and are especially sweet. Chioggia beets are pinkish red on the outside and have pretty white and red stripes on the inside, like a bullseye. You may see a combo of these varieties.  

Just before cooking, scrub beets well and remove rootlets. If your recipe calls for raw beets, peel them with a knife or a veggie peeler, then grate or cut them according to the recipe. To easily remove the skins, you can roast them in foil or boil them, and the peels will come right off. 

People tend to be in the love-them camp or the leave-them camp, and we’re always encouraging you to try beets in different ways because we fall on the side of love them! Borscht, beet hummus, roasted beets and steamed lemony beets are fantastic ways to consume these healthful veggies. Their hearty, savory-but-sweet nature also lends them well to chocolate desserts! Try a beet cake or beet chocolate pudding—because adding a serving of vegetables to your sweets is never a bad idea.

Hakurei Salad Turnips

You’ve been enjoying these sweet turnips for most of the year so far. Round and white, some have been harvested quite small while others are more like fist-sized. It’s been a great year for the hakurei turnips!

These mild Japanese turnips are fantastic sliced on salads, and when roasted, they take on even more sweetness. Try them in stir fries and paired with sesame and miso flavors.

Other Turnips

Purple-top turnips, French white, scarlett queen and golden turnips are in the “other” turnips category. Before hakurei turnips came onto the local-food scene a few years ago, these “other” turnips are all we knew of turnip options. We still love them!

These tend to get quite a bit larger than the hakurei turnips. They lend themselves well to braising above all else. You can purée them into soups and roast them, as well. We like to throw one into mashed potatoes for a bit of sweetness.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a staple of seasonal eating. Get ready for lots of sweet potato recipes coming your way when the harvest gets started, which should be in the next few weeks!

Sweet potatoes are so often called yams, but yams are completely different vegetables that don’t grow in Kentucky. It’s also assumed that sweet potatoes are related to potatoes, which is not true—they’re actually cousins of morning glory flowers!

Elmwood Stock Farm generally grows several varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and one of white-fleshed. The orange sweet potatoes are sweet and starchy, just as you’d expect. The white ones are a Japanese variety that are more starchy, slightly less sweet. You’ll also find fingerling sweet potatoes of both varieties—more often orange than white.

Salad Radishes

You’ve been seeing salad radishes on and off throughout the year, though these small radishes are most abundant in the spring and fall. You’ll find them in reddish pink, purple and white, both round and oblong, all depending on the variety.

These fast-growing root veggies are excellent on salads, of course, and we highly encourage you to try them roasted. They get caramelized and sweet, and we love them! Salad radishes are also fun to ferment.

Winter Radishes

Watermelon radish, black Spanish radish and daikon radish fall into the winter radishes category. While they’re all related, they’re quite different:

  • Daikon radishes: Long, white radish. Essential ingredient for kimchi, also great roasted and in stir fries.
  • Watermelon radish: Larger round radish. Looks like a watermelon inside! Stronger flavored than salad radishes. Best roasted or very thinly sliced for salads. Try them in a quick pickle!
  • Black Spanish radish: Larger round radish. Very peppery. Excellent roasted, grated into stir fries and made into chips (like potato chips!).

Potatoes

These root vegetables need no explanation, right? Red, white, blue, yellow, purple and white bakers: Potatoes are a favorite crop at Elmwood Stock Farm. 

These potatoes are uncured, so keep them in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat your potatoes, scrub well, and cut off any sprouts or green skin. Peeling is a matter of preference. In soups, the skins may separate from the flesh and float in the broth, but when baked, pan-fried or roasted, the skins acquire a crisp, crunchy texture. If baking a whole potato, be sure to prick the skin at least 2 places to allow steam to escape.

As the fall vegetables continue to roll in, we’re rooting for these root vegetables to be a larger part of our diets. The variety offered here makes being a local, seasonal eater more fun.

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