Winter Roots from the Vegetable Garden
Those who planned which vegetable seeds to sow last spring are now enjoying the results of that planning. Winter root and leaf vegetables are swelling the supplies in their kitchens and turning up in hearty, healthy meals.
If you didn’t plan ahead then, now is the time to think about what vegetable seeds to sow this spring to enjoy a winter bounty next year. Common root crops, like carrots and turnips will be obvious choices, but variety is the key to healthy, interesting eating, so here are some more unusual root vegetables for you to consider.
Popular Root Vegetable Seeds
This is an ancient vegetable mentioned by Roman authors two millennium ago. The root is long and narrow, like a white carrot. There are two kinds, one where the roots have black skin and the more usual kind, with white skin. The variety ‘Mammoth Sandwich Island’ has larger roots than the wild kind, so it is the best choice for the vegetable garden. To enjoy these root vegetables you need to grow it in your own vegetable garden, as it is rarely offered in stores because the root quickly discolors when lifted from the ground.
Salsify is sometimes called vegetable oyster, as it tastes very vaguely like oysters. The roots should be steamed or boiled and then peeled after cooking. The cooked roots can be grated into salads, stir-fried, added to stews, or made into a delicious creamy soup.
If you leave a few roots in the ground you will get to see the interesting purple flowers that are produced in spring or early summer. You might then be surprised to see that this plant is in the daisy family.
These odd-ball root vegetables are part of the cabbage family but it is grown for the swollen root – the name in German means ‘cabbage-turnip’ and indeed it is popular in German-speaking countries and also in southern India. The usual variety is called ‘Vienna’ which comes in a white form and also in a purple-skinned form. It is a rapid grower (60 days) and should be harvested when the roots are still only a couple of inches across. At that size they will be crisp and delicate, not woody as they can become if allowed to grow old.
The flavor is mild, like the stem of broccoli. It can be grated raw to make a salad or slaw and also added to stews or curries. These are great root vegetables for getting the many benefits of the cabbage family into children who won’t eat green vegetables. Don’t waste the leaves ‘though – they can be eaten like collards or kale.
Everyone knows and grows parley, but that leafy herb has a rooty sister with a long, white root resembling a parsnip – not quite so surprising when you remember that parsnips are part of the parsley family. This is a great dual-purpose crop, since the leaves can be used like Italian parsley, with the bonus of an edible root. Like Kohlrabi it is more commonly eaten in central Europe. The root is delicious roasted, added to potatoes for mashing or used in soups and stews.
So plan ahead when ordering your vegetable seeds and add something different to liven up your vegetable garden with some novel root vegetables.