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All About Root Vegetables

A root vegetable is one where the root of the plant is eaten. They are typically harvested in the fall and able to keep for long periods of time, which is why they are an essential ingredient in most regional cuisines. From colourful beets to radiant radishes, here are some popular root vegetables available at Metro.


Beets

Red and white beets were known to the Romans and became part of the English and German diet at the beginning of the 16th Century

Characteristics

The beet is a vegetable that is usually plump with thin, shiny skin. Its flesh is either bright red or white, depending on the variety. The beet gets its colour from betacyanine, a pigment that dissolves in water. The less bruised a beet is before cooking, the more vibrant its juice will be in whatever dish is being prepared. It is this colourful property that makes borscht such a delightful presentation. The large attractive leaves of the beet are also edible.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Select firm smooth beets that are not bruised or blemished. Avoid large beets as they tend to be tough. The state of the leaves is not an indication of the quality of the beet.
  • To eat beets raw, simply peel and then slice or julienne.
  • For best results, do not peel beets you intend to cook. To further enhance their lovely colour during cooking, add lemon juice or vinegar to the water and boil or steam for 30-60 minutes. You can also cook beets in the oven, which will preserve its flavour and heighten its colour.
  • To verify if a beet is cooked, pass it under cold water. If the skin comes off easily, then it is ready to eat.
  • Once cooked, beets can be eaten hot or cold.
  • Beet leaves can be eaten like spinach or chard.

Availability

Beets are available year-round in the produce section

Nutritional value

Beets are an excellent source of potassium, vitamins A and C, magnesium and riboflavin. They also contain iron, copper, calcium, thiamine, Vitamin B6, folic acid, zinc and niacin.

Storage life

Fresh beets are always sold with a few of their leaves and some of their root still attached which helps them keep better. They can be stored this way in the refrigerator for two to four weeks and can be frozen once cooked.


White turnip (rabiole)

The white turnip, rabiole, belongs to the large family of cabbage, mustard and radish. It has been grown in the Middle East for over 4,000 years.

Characteristics

White turnip is a round tuberous root with a thin skin that forms a red or purple collar. Its firm, white flesh has a subtle yet fragrant taste. The smallest rabioles are sold with their leaves, which are also edible.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Select a firm white turnip that is heavy for its size and free of blemishes. Larger rabioles tend to be tough and bitter.
  • If there are leaves attached, they should be crisp and deep green.
  • White turnip can be eaten raw or cooked. It needs only to be scrubbed with a vegetable brush first. If peeling is necessary, it is easier after it has been cooked.
  • It can be cooked in boiling water or steamed for 10-30 minutes depending on its size. It’s excellent in stews, soups, couscous, as well as puréed.
  • Tiny rabioles can be prepared and eaten like celeriac.
  • The leaves can be eaten like spinach.

Availability

White turnip is available year-round in the produce section.

Nutritional value

White turnip is a good source of potassium and Vitamin C, and also contains folic acid.

Storage life

White turnip can be refrigerated in a perforated plastic bag for two weeks. It is best blanched before freezing.


Oriental radish (daikon)

You may be familiar with the Oriental radish by its Japanese name Daikon or Satzouma radish. This radish is very popular in Asia where it is used in most sauces.

Characteristics

The Oriental radish is a white root with smooth skin. It is shaped like a long carrot and can measure up to 30 cm. Its skin can be black, pink or green. Its flesh is white, very juicy and refreshing, with a nice crunchy texture.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Select a firm, smooth daikon.
  • Clean with a vegetable brush or remove a thin layer of skin on the part to be used.
  • Daikon is often served marinated or briefly cooked, but mostly eaten raw or fried.
  • Served raw, they go well with dip or cut into small pieces for salad.
  • Cooked, they can be added to stir-fries or puréed for soups.
  • Try making this excellent Japanese marinade: slice daikon very thinly, add a little onion, a pinch of chilli pepper, the juice of half a lemon, about 60 ml (1/4 cup) of rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well and store in a cool space for two days or refrigerated for about two weeks.

Availability

Daikon is available year-round in the produce section.

Nutritional value

Daikon is rich in Vitamin C. It is low in sodium and fibre and has few calories.

Storage life

Daikon can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days. Daikon can be stored over a longer period if cooked.


Parsnip

The ancestor of the parsnip that we know today was used by ancient Greeks and Romans and improved during the Middle Ages. Parsnip was brought to North America by English colonists at the beginning of the 16th century.

Characteristics

Parsnip is a yellow, carrot-shaped root that can measure 18-30 cm in length with a diameter of 5-8 cm. Its texture is similar to a rutabaga and its flesh has a somewhat nutty taste. The parsnip can develop a sweeter taste if it is not dug up until after the first fall frost.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Select a firm parsnip of medium length that is heavy for its size and without scars or blemishes. Overly large parsnips will be tough, woody and lack flavour.
  • Parsnip can be eaten raw or cooked, and does not need to be peeled. A simple rubbing with a vegetable brush will suffice. Its skin is very thin and is easily removed after cooking. The flesh of the parsnip blackens when it comes in contact with air, so it should be cut just before cooking or cut then sprinkled with lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Parsnip prepares like the carrot, salsify and rutabaga. It’s delicious puréed, in soups, ragouts, and stews.
  • The flavour of parsnip improves once cooked.

Availability

Parsnips are available year-round in the produce section.

Nutritional value

While parsnip is rich in calories, it is an excellent source of potassium and folic acid, and contains vitamins C and B6, magnesium, pantothenic acid, copper and phosphorus. It can cause flatulence.

Storage life

Parsnip can be refrigerated in a perforated plastic bag for up to four weeks. It freezes well, but it is best to blanch parsnip for five minutes if whole or three minutes if cut in pieces.


Radish

The radish was amongst the first vegetables ever cultivated. Along with being a tasty vegetable, it is also sought after for its medicinal properties.

Characteristics

There are several different types of radish: red, black, and white. The more common red radish is usually round or oval measuring between 2–3 cm in diameter. Its skin is always red, yet its firm, crunchy flesh can be white or red. Its tart, pleasant taste is quite refreshing. Radish leaves are also edible.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Select firm, smooth radishes that are free of bruises or blemishes. Larger radishes tend to be tough and very tart. If the leaves are still attached, they should be crisp and bright green.
  • Radish can be eaten raw in salads, sandwiches or as appetizers with dips.
  • Cooked, they are excellent in soups, ragouts, sautéed or stir-fried. The white radish, in particular, is delicious stir-fried.
  • Radish can also be marinated.

Availability

Radishes are available year-round in the produce section.

Nutritional value

Raw radish is a good source of potassium and Vitamin C. It also contains folic acid.

Storage life

Radishes can be refrigerated for one week with leaves removed.


Rutabaga

Rutabaga belongs to the large family of cabbage, mustard and radish. It appears to have been cultivated in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages under its Swedish name rotabaggar. The rutabaga was a main source of nourishment during the Second World War, which explains why it is still perceived as food of strife.

Characteristics

The rutabaga is a cabbage-like turnip with an edible root. It is fairly large, with a bulging portion where the leaves are attached. Its violet skin is streaked with yellow, as is its flesh which has a very tart flavour that’s stronger than white turnip.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Select a firm, medium rutabaga, heavy for its size and unblemished. A large rutabaga risks being tough and woody. The heavier the scent of a rutabaga, the stronger the flavour.
  • Rutabaga can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • First, peel and cut into pieces. Remove the core if it is brown.
  • Rutabaga needs to be cooked for at least 15 minutes in boiling water or in a steamer.
  • It’s excellent in stews, soups, pot roasts or puréed, mixed with mashed potatoes or carrots.

Availability

Rutabaga is available year-round in the produce section.

Nutritional value

Rutabaga is an excellent source of potassium and Vitamin C as well as containing magnesium, folic acid and phosphorus.

Storage life

Rutabaga can be refrigerated in a perforated plastic bag for three weeks. We recommend blanching rutabaga for two minutes before freezing.


Batata

The batata comes from the Caribbean. It is a root vegetable very similar to the sweet potato. The batata is grown in all tropical climates and used in many delicious Caribbean casseroles. It is also known as Indian artichoke, purple batata and, yes, also as sweet potato!

Characteristics

The batata is similar in appearance and flavour to the sweet potato. However, the flesh of the batata is white or yellow, while its skin is coppery red or orangey red. Even though the batata is starchier than the sweet potato, it can easily replace it in any of your favourite sweet potato recipes.


Culinary tips and advice

  • Choose a batata the same way you would a potato, looking for firm flesh, smooth and unblemished skin. Small batatas are tastier than larger ones and better retain their consistency when cooked.
  • Once peeled, place the batata in cold water to keep it from browning.
  • Cook the batata like a potato: oven-baked, roasted, sautéed, boiled or puréed.
  • Avoid using too much seasoning which would overwhelm its subtle taste.
  • The batata is very versatile; it can even be made into dessert!

Availability

The batata is available year-round in the produce section.

Nutritional value

The batata is a source of vitamins B6 and C.

Storage life

The batata does not need to be refrigerated. It will keep for one week at a temperature of 13º C.



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