Winter has settled in, and while local produce isn't at the peak availability we see in late summer, the types of root vegetables lining produce shelves are far more exciting than you might realize! From parsnips to celery root to carrots to kohlrabi to rutabaga, here's what you need to know about common root vegetables and how to cook with them.
Different types of root vegetables
Beets are a versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, steamed, or pickled. Plus, you can eat the greens, too! A good source of folate, beets come in a variety of colours, but you'll more commonly see red, yellow, and candy cane-striped varieties (also known as Chioggia beets). The beet's distinct earthy flavour can be sweetened through roasting or balanced through pickling or the use of tangy salad vinaigrettes.
Available year-round, this bright-orange root vegetable stores extremely well through winter. Originally white, carrots have been cultivated through the years to a variety of colours (purple, yellow, red, orange). Roast carrots at high temperatures to caramelize their natural sugars and get that perfect golden-brown crisp at the edges; sauté with orange and ginger for a spicy-sweet side; or grate into salads or baking. The options are (almost) endless.
Also referred to as celeriac, this knobby root vegetable has a surprisingly wide variety of uses. You can eat it raw (spiralized into noodles or grated into coleslaws and salads), roasted, boiled, or mashed.
From the same family as cabbage, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea), kohlrabi is similar to broccoli in flavour but considered to be milder and sweeter. Smaller bulbs are sweeter, while larger bulbs lean toward more peppery notes. The leaves are edible and go nicely in salads, but the bulb's peel is fibrous and tough, so it's a good idea to toss it into the compost.
A close relative of the carrot, the parsnip is a highly underrated root vegetable. You can roast it, mash it, or purée it-it can even be used in dessert! Late-harvest parsnips are more sweet, as exposure to the cold turns the starches to sugar, making them an ideal winter vegetable.
Turnips can be used similarly to radishes (they're related!). And like radishes, young turnips are mild, while older ones have a more intense flavour; use those for roasting and mashing, where you can bring out the natural sweetness with seasonings, and save young turnips for fresher applications, like salads or crudités.
Don't judge this purple-and-beige root vegetable by its exterior. Once peeled (a rutabaga is often coated with a waxy preservative to prevent moisture loss during long-term storage), it can be boiled and mashed, roasted, spiralized, puréed, julienned, and more! A cross somewhere between cabbage and turnips, it's relatively mild and sweet with a slightly bitter finish, making it an easy addition to wintry dishes.