Root Vegetables: At the Root of it All

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Throughout most of the year, our only exposure to “root vegetables” is with common items like carrots, garlic, onions and yams. However, come fall, there is a lot more going on underground, and it is reflected in the presence of all sorts of curiosities throughout the Sprouts Produce Department. Nutritionally, there is much to recommend about root vegetables. They are high in fiber and slow-digesting carbohydrates, so they can make you feel satisfied for longer. Still, their rarity and misshapen, bulbous bodies give them a strange appearance, making them seem hard to cook and perhaps even a little unappetizing. So we thought this would be an opportune time to de-mystify these produce underdogs from the underground.

At the Root of it All:


These lopsided veggies are also known as Swedish turnips or simply as “swedes.” They are a hybrid of turnips and cabbage and are hearty enough to stand up to slow cooking and roasting. Rutabagas are rich in vitamin C and low in sodium. They have a slightly spicy, mildly sweet taste. Their leafy tops can also be eaten, and make a tasty addition to a salad. Look for rutabagas that are firm with unblemished skin. One cup of cubed, uncooked rutabaga contains about 11 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber and 50 calories. Next time you make homemade mashed potatoes, try adding some cubed rutabaga to the boiling pot. Mash as usual and enjoy!


White-skinned with purplish red spots where the sunshine hit, these taproots have an entirely white interior flesh. Turnips make a tasty addition to soups and stews. The root of the turnip is a good source of vitamin C, while the green tops are a good source of vitamins A, K, calcium and folate. One serving of turnips contains about 36 calories, 8 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber. Look for firm turnips that are heavy for their size. Cut the stems and leaves off the turnips, wash, wrap in paper towels and place them in a plastic bag for a few days. Store the root intact in the refrigerator for up to a week.


These elongated root veggies look a bit like a bulky carrot with creamy white skin. Parsnips cannot grow in warm temperatures because they need frost to help develop their flavor. In addition to being a cousin of the carrot, parsnips are also closely related to parsley. They are rich in potassium and fiber and have a mild buttery sweetness. The next time glazed carrots are on the menu, try “maple-glazed parsnips” instead. Wash and peel two pounds of parsnips. Cut into evenly sized cubes and drizzle with a little olive oil. Liberally coat the parsnips with maple syrup, season with salt and black pepper, and roast at 350°F for 45 minutes. One serving of raw parsnips contains about 100 calories, 24 grams of carbs and 7 grams of fiber. Look for parsnips with a firm texture and an even, creamy white color.


Sometimes known as a German turnip, kohlrabi actually gets its name from kohl, the German word for cabbage. Oddly enough, this rooted tuber is one of the most popular vegetables in Kashmir. Those Kashmiris are on to something: kohlrabi is delicious, with a mild flavor faintly reminiscent of broccoli. The leaves of kohlrabi can be chopped and added to soups and salads and the bulbs can be cooked like turnips. Look for kohlrabi with rounded smooth bulbs. The leaves should be large and deep green. The flesh will range from green to purple. One serving of uncooked kohlrabi contains about 36 calories, 8 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber.


Your knowledge of horseradish is likely of the sinus-clearing condiment that comes in a jar and accompanies your prime rib dinner, but used sparingly, raw, grated horseradish gives a fresh snap of savory bitterness to any meat dish and even stews. It can also add some zip to bottled mustards. Horseradish is a good source of calcium, magnesium, zinc and manganese. One serving of prepared horseradish contains 7 calories and 2 grams of carbs.


The vibrant gems of the underground, beets are wonderfully tasty and versatile. They add delicious color and texture to salads when used raw. When roasted, they caramelize to sweet perfection and need little embellishing before being served hot or cold. They can be boiled and the cooking water can be used for dye. Beet greens are wonderful when sautéed with garlic and olive oil and can be used like spinach. One serving of raw beets contains about 58 calories, 13 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber. Look for beets with relatively smooth skin and a firm body. Their color should be a deep, purplish red with no blemishes (though there are also golden beet varieties). The tops should be vibrant green with red veins running throughout.
Video Description: When selecting a perfectly ripened beet look for produce that is smooth and hard. The surface should be free of bruises and cuts. Avoid beets with soft moist spots or wrinkled skins.