You'll be surprised to learn that a lot of very common vegetables on your plate grow underground and are called root vegetables! Take a look at this collection and learn about meal staples like beets, carrots, radishes and potatoes. Since they don't rely on the weather above ground, a lot of root vegetables have no problem growing in the winter.
Most people think of beets as the purple root vegetables, but that's just one variety. There are also sugar beets, which play a big role in table sugar production. Then there are more surprising members of the beet family, like chard, which has brightly colored stems. The beet's red color comes from betalin and stains absolutely everything it touches. Some people can't break this color down, so they will even pee purple and red if they eat beets!
Carrots are an orange, white, red or purple root vegetable that grow twice a year. The flesh of the taproot, or the edible part, is full of sugar, crisp in texture and full of vitamin A, which is especially good for a person's vision. The carrot stem, which most people don't eat, can grow up to three feet high.
Cassava root, which is grown mostly in Africa, is a starchy food that is the third largest source of carbohydrates on the planet. These white or off-white roots are very high in calcium and vitamin C, as well as energy. If the roots are processed, ground up and dried out, their flour is used to make tapioca!
Both the ginger plant and the ginger root are grown in Asia, India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. The root, a pale brown thing that resembles gnarled tree branches and has a spicy, zesty smell and flavor, is used both in cooking and in medicine. Ginger is used in curries, pickled in Japanese preparations and tossed into many Chinese dishes. Ginger is also a natural antibacterial substance.
The jicama root, also called the Mexican turnip or the Mexican potato, is a plant that grows in the Americas. Some people eat its leaves but most people eat its white root, which can weigh up to 40 pounds. Jicama has a really clean, fresh and crisp flavor that reminds some people of raw pear. It is mostly eaten raw, shredded and put on salad or seasoned with lime and chili powder.
Historians are having problems figuring out when parsnips were first used in food. Back in the day of the ancient Greeks and Romans, carrots were either white or purple. In writings from the time, it is very difficult to distinguish between these ancient carrots and parsnips, which are roots and also white in color. The main difference between parsnips and carrots is that parsnips have a much stronger flavor and less sugar.
Potatoes came from an area in Peru, but now they are the world's fourth largest crop after rice, wheat and corn. Peru and Chile are still home to most of the world's varieties of potato, with hundreds of different varieties growing in the Andes Mountains. All over the world, people eat about 73 pounds of potatoes a year.
Radishes are colorful, bitter root vegetables that grow very quickly. Many people start out growing radishes for just this reason. Seeds germinate in a few days and radishes grow completely in three to four weeks. There are many varieties of radish and the vegetables themselves are full of B6 vitamins and folic acid, both nutrients that are very good for the brain and nervous system.
Turnips are good for human food as well as livestock food. Smaller, more tender turnips are good for human eating. They can be roasted or made into mash. The flesh contains a lot of vitamin C. People even sautee up turnip greens or put them in a salad. The greens themselves contain a lot of very healthy vitamin A.
The yam is a root vegetable that gets confused very often with a sweet potato. They're actualy not part of the same family and, when most people think of sweet potatoes, they're actually thinking of yams. Yams have a purplish skin and an orange inside and can weigh up to 150 pounds. They're starchy but have a sugary flavor and are really great for roasting.