Vegetables that grow underground - either
the enlarged roots of plants or the tubers from which both plants and
roots develop - make up an extensive group ranging from standbys such as
potatoes and carrots to Jerusalem artichokes. Many of these vegetables
share a pleasing sweet flavor.
Turnips and rutabagas (swedes) are related
root vegetables. Rutabagas usually grow larger than turnips and have
golden yellow flesh, whereas turnips are white. Parsnips, roots that
resemble large carrots - and are, in fact, in the carrot family - have
ivory-colored flesh. Sweet potatoes, though not related to their
namesake, lend themselves to many of the same preparations as the
Mature roots and tubers generally peeled
before cooking. Young vegetables, such as baby carrots and new potatoes,
and Jerusalem artichokes can simply be washed and cooked in their skins.
When buying roots and tubers, select firm,
unwrinkled specimens that are relatively heavy in proportion to their
size. The green tops of turnips and beets can be eaten. Store roots and
tubers, unwashed, with their leaves removed, in a cool, dark place for
up to two weeks. Store leaves in the vegetable crisper of the
refrigerator for up to one week.
Sweet potatoes can be used in many of the same dishes. Choose small
to medium sweet potatoes with unblemished, uniformly colored, smooth
skin and no soft or moist spots. Avoid any that are sprouting.
Carrots are sweet, crisp and firm when young but as they age, become
limp and develop woody cores. Look for bright orange carrots and avoid
any that look dry or split. Ivory parsnips have a starchy flesh and a
fruity smell. Look for medium-sized, unblemished parsnips with smooth,
firm flesh. Turnips have a white, crisp flesh with a sweet to hot flavor. Choose
small to medium-sized unblemished turnips with no moist spots. Beetroot
makes wonderful salads and soups. Try whole baby beets or grate raw
beetroot over cole slaw.