Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that the “beautiful rests on the foundations of the necessary” and nothing could be truer for the workhorses of the culinary world: root vegetables. Despite their functionality and often crude appearance, root vegies are a core ingredient of cuisines worldwide due to their flavour, affordability and nutritional value.
Winter is the peak season for most root vegetables, here we showcase a range of varieties that are at their peak over the winter months and offer that little something special.
Speaking of tatties, these varieties start in Autumn and are well on their way to peak flavour and supply in the winter months.
BURBANK aka Idaho
When: All year, best Mar – Dec
How: The chip potato! Though also good for baking and roasting
When: All year, best Jan – Oct
How: Starchy so make great chips but also good mashed, boiled, baked or fried
When: All year, best Jan – Oct
How: One of our best sellers, desiree are an all rounder. They hold their shape well, suffer minimal discolouration after cooking and are incredibly versatile, avoid frying.
When: All year, best Feb – Aug
How: All rounder- good cooking variety (roast, mash, chip, salad)
CELERIAC: aka Celery root
Availability: Mar – Sept
Appearance: creamy brown solid tuber
Flavour: rich texture with slightly nutty flavour – cross between celery and parsley
Selection: choose medium size roots that are firm, if the leaves are still attached look for healthy plump stalks
Preparation: Don’t wash until ready to use and peel tough outer layer. Cooked they can be chipped, boiled, steamed, mashed you name it. Raw they are often grated in salads (lemon will stop discolouration once cut)
Nutritional value: good dietary fiber and Vitamin C
Availability: Best Jun – Aug
Appearance: swollen stem at the base of blue/green leaves, stem can be purple-red/light green-white
Flesh: pale green – creamy white and crispy
Flavour: slightly sweeter than broccoli stems or cabbage heart. White tends to be slightly softer and milder, while red is larger and has a stronger aroma and flavour
Selection: buy medium size (larger = woodier). Look for crisp, good colour
Preparation: The stems have two distinct fibrous layers, these are generally peeled prior to cooking or serving raw. To get the most value and nutrients, cook whole with skin on then peel after cooking. Otherwise, use much like a turnip- lovely raw in salads or roasted/sautéed. The leaves can also be used as a substitute to Kale.
Nutritional value: Very good source of Vitamin C and potassium
LOTUS ROOT: aka renkon
Availability: Usually available all year
Appearance: root (rhizome) with reddish brown skin
Flesh: slightly crunchy, white flesh with air holes running the length of the root
Flavour: sweet, crisp (maintains texture when cooked)
Selection: firm, plump and juicy with no soft spots. The darker the root the older it is
Preparation: Peel and go. Can be eaten raw (like celery or carrot) on a platter or in salads. When cooking, it is recommended to blanch prior to avoid discolouration. Steam, caramelise, stew, candy or use in a curry or soup
Nutritional value: dietary fiber, Vitamin C, minerals- copper, iron, zinc, magnesium
Availability: All year but at its best Autumn/Winter
Appearance: white, tapered root
Flavour: spicy, pungent nose burn- similar to wasabi or mustard (which are in the family)
Selection: avoid shriveled or dry roots with soft or green spots
Preparation: fresh roots aren’t pungent but (similar to wasabi) the process of cutting, grating or grinding causes its cells to breakdown and undergo a chemical reaction. This reaction releases oils which provide the pungent aroma and taste. Once prepared, fresh horseradish should be used quickly or it will lose its potency (if left exposed it can also develop a bitter taste)
Nutritional value: antibacterial (good for colds) source of potassium, calcium and magnesium
SALSIFY: Black & White
Availability: Best Autumn/Winter
Appearance: long, slim root with bark like skin (black or white) and creamy-white flesh
Flavour: creamy, earthy taste that some compare to an oyster or artichoke
Preparation: wear gloves to avoid staining hands, peel then coat with lemon to prevent browning (having said that it is often easier just to peel after boiling, then prepare as desired).
Health Benefits: particularly good for diabetics, it is a good source of fibre, manganese, potassium, riboflavin, Vit B6 & C
JICAMA: aka Yam Bean
Availability: All Year
Appearance: tan coloured tuber
Flesh: white and crunchy
Flavour: crisp and sweet (cross between an apple and a potato)- high water content
Selection: medium size, firm with dry roots
Preparation: Use like apple or pear in salads (grated/chopped) as it won’t discolour. Can be used like a water chestnut in asian dishes or chopped into stews or soups.
Nutritional value: very good source of Potassium, dietary fibre and Vitamin C
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