When you think of root vegetables, do you automatically picture potatoes, carrots and onions? While these veggies are classic favorites, they can also be a bit uninspiring. Luckily, the cold weather brings some delectable and underutilized root vegetables to the forefront. Try something new in your cold-weather cooking and branch out into turnips, rutabaga, celeriac, sunchokes or parsnips. These veggies are supremely nutritious and can be used in a variety of ways.
A member of the cabbage family, turnips look like a mix between a radish and beet. Not only can you eat the bulb, but the turnip greens are edible too. Packed with vitamins and minerals, the greens have a taste similar to kale. The turnip bulb is a good source of potassium, a nutrient known for lowering blood pressure, and the greens contain calcium, vitamin K and vitamin A. Eating the entire turnip is a surefire way to get your daily dose of nutrients.
“Turnips are delicious when prepared simply,” says chef and registered dietitian Abbie Gellman, M.S., R.D., CDN. “Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until golden brown.”
Also known as a yellow turnip, a rutabaga is slightly larger and sweeter than a turnip and pale yellow in color. The waxy outer skin prevents dehydration, and the flesh turns somewhat orange when cooked. Rutabagas are an excellent source of vitamin C to help ward off winter colds, and they also contain potassium and fiber.
This starchy vegetable lends itself well to a basic mash. Try swapping out half the Yukon golds for rutabaga in your basic mashed potato recipe.
Often referred to as celery root, celeriac is a close relative to the common celery you know. A bumpy, pale yellow veggie, it tastes somewhat like celery, with a more earthy and intense flavor. You may have trouble peeling this knobby vegetable, but its smooth and creamy texture makes the hassle worth it. Celeriac boasts an impressive nutrient profile, with vitamins K, C and B6, phosphorus, fiber, potassium and manganese.
Because of its rich and creamy texture, celeriac makes a luxurious fall soup. Gellman recommends sauteing small cubes of peeled celeriac with garlic and onions. When they’re soft, add vegetable broth and puree the mixture into a silky soup.
These oddly shaped root vegetables have a nutty and sweet flavor. Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) are an excellent source of fiber, but they sometimes get a bad reputation for their abundance of inulin — a type of fiber that has been known to cause gas. It’s recommended to cook sunchokes before eating, to avoid digestive issues. They’re a good source of phosphorus, which helps keep bones and teeth strong, and thiamine, which helps convert food into energy. And there’s great news for vegetarians: Sunchokes are also an excellent source of plant-based iron.
Boil them until soft, then puree and add to a polenta dish for a boost of sweetness and nutrients. Or, use your basic pickling recipe and sub in sunchokes for a crisp and unique briny veg.
This root vegetable looks like a white, starchier carrot, but has a sweeter and meatier taste. Parsnips are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and folate, which is vital for DNA production and cell health.
“Parsnip chips are a great snack. Use a mandoline to make paper-thin slices, then toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and crispy,” says Gellman.