3 delicious ways to use root vegetables your whole family will love

plate of roasted root vegetables

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

With so many delicious root vegetables in season right now, it’s a great time to experiment with new ways to make them. Here are just a few ideas to get started.

1. Raw root salads

If you have strong digestion a salad can be a good option for many root veggies. It involves the least processing and therefore maintains the root’s rich nutrient value. Plus, it’s quick!

Grate, chop or slice any of the following. The small bite-size pieces (i.e. the large surface-to-volume ratio) makes them sweet, stimulating and delicious. And you can mix them too!

  • Beets
  • Jicama
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Fennel
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Kohlrabi

Tips for choosing root vegetables: Firm is good. Too hard and dry or too soft and mushy are all bad. Because roots are in the ground, they can sometimes be subjected to extremes of moisture that lead them to develop rot if it’s too wet, or wither and harden if it’s too dry.

Buy organic whenever you can. Roots are more likely than most plants to be affected when pesticide runoff or other contaminants are present in the water and soil. Wash them thoroughly and peel them as needed before using them.

2. Steamed, boiled and mashed, or roasted

Some popular root veggies — like sweet potatoes, yams and rutabagas — are too hard or dense to work well raw. But they’re delicious steamed or roasted. Plus, many can be boiled and mashed as you probably already do when you make potatoes.

Try this roasted root vegetable with onions recipe
From the Amazing Acid-Alkaline Cookbook by Bonnie Ross

roasted root vegetable recipe

The first time you make this dish, cut up more than you need of everything except the onions and freeze the extra in a gallon-size freezer bag. Then the next time you want it, all you have to do is thaw it, cut the onions, season and bake.

Sweet potato tip: Be sure you’re not confusing sweet potatoes with yams. Many people think they’re the same thing — but they’re actually completely different plants. Sweet potatoes are orange or yellowish inside and have a light yellow or copper-colored skin. Yams are white, purple or reddish inside and have a dark skin.

3. Soups and chowders

I love to prepare hardy, alkalizing root veggies in soups and stews. When cooked in soups, the roots are both warming and easy to digest. Onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and many others can be used in soups, stews and chowders, either as an added ingredient or the main attraction. French onion soup and vichysoisse, a potato, onion and leek soup traditionally served cold, are two examples of root-centric soups.

Onion and garlic family tip: Let your diced onions, garlic, shallots or leeks sit for five minutes or so after slicing them. “Wounded” onions and garlic develop increased antioxidant activity in a short time frame after being cut. Throwing them immediately into a hot pan or soup prevents you from taking advantage of that characteristic. When it comes to onions, all good things really do come to those who wait a little while!

Health benefits of root vegetables

Allen J.C., Corbitt A.D., Maloney K.P., Butt M.S., Truong V.-D. Glycemic index of sweet potato as affected by cooking methods. The Open Nutrition Journal 2012;6: 1-11.

Annigan J. Sweet potato vs yam nutrition. Livestrong.com, Oct. 3, 2017.

Banihani S.A. Radish (Raphanus sativus) and diabetes. Nutrients 2017, 9(9), 1014; doi:10.3390/nu9091014

Chandrasekara A., Kumar T.J. Roots and tuber crops as functional foods: a review on phytochemical constituents and their potential health benefits. International Journal of Food Science 2016:Article ID 3631647. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/3631647

Da Silva Dias J.C. Nutritional and health benefits of carrots and their seed extracts. Food and Nutrition Sciences 2014;5:2147–2156.

Han C., Ji Y., Li M., Li X., Jin P., Zheng Y. Influence of wounding intensity and storage temperature on quality and antioxidant activity of fresh-cut Welsh onions. Scientia Horticulturae 2016;212:203-209

Trinidad T.P., Mallillin A.C., Loyola A.C., Encabo R.R., Sagum R.S., et al. Nutritional and health benefits of root crops. In: R.R. Watson and V.R. Preedy, Eds., Bioactive Foods in Promoting Health. Burlington, MA: Academic Press.