Roots and tubers are underground vegetables that provide a lot of energy and significant amounts of minerals and vitamins, especially B and C.

The consumption of roots and tubers, present since antiquity in most cultures, seems to be linked to a basic, little varied and coarse diet.

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However, for their simplicity, these underground vegetables (indispensable for human sustenance in times of scarcity) provide dishes full of flavor and color, modern and light, which guarantee the body a good supply of energy.

As they grow underground and act as an energy reserve for the plant, tubers are rich in simple and complex carbohydrates (starches and sugars), vitamins (mainly C and group B) and minerals.

When consumed, they provide long-lasting concentrated, dense and invigorating energy, which doesn’t mean they are difficult to digest. Quite the contrary: they are light and easy to assimilate.

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To the nutritional qualities of the roots we must add their ease of conservation: once harvested, they keep for longer than most vegetables, although it is always advisable to consume them as fresh as possible to make the most of their nutrients.

The best roots and tubers

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The list of roots used in cooking is very long: carrots, turnips, parsnips, beets, kohlrabi, celery, radishes, turnip greens, sweet potatoes, potatoes, tiger nuts, yams, cassava, Jerusalem artichoke, salsify, root of lotus… .

They all share energy richness – although not an excess of calories -, vitamins and minerals, as well as a good supply of fibers that help regulate intestinal transit.

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Each one also has its particular properties, which gives good reasons to include them in a healthy and balanced diet.

Nutritional properties of roots and tubers

Roots and tubers are, above all, good sources of energy, but inside they also store abundant vitamins and minerals.

  • Carrot. It is an extraordinary source of antioxidant vitamins, especially beta-carotene, which the body transforms into vitamin A and is responsible for its orange color. Unlike vitamin C, beta-carotene resists cooking well and, being fat-soluble, is best used if carrots are accompanied by a little oil.
  • Turnip. Rich in fiber, potassium and folic acid, it has many medicinal virtues. Combats constipation and purifies. Cut into slices and covered with honey relieves cough and stimulates defenses.
  • parsnip. Sweet and aromatic parsnip provides folic acid, vitamin C, E and other B vitamins. It is a laxative, diuretic, aperitif and relieves cough if cooked with honey. It should be eaten very soft.
  • Potato or father. In addition to being a good source of complex sugars, it provides abundant minerals, especially selenium, potassium, fluorine, phosphorus, iron and magnesium, as well as B vitamins. Steamed and seasoned with olive oil, it is light and delicious.
  • Beet. Its content in folic acid and vitamin C stands out. It also provides iron, but not as much as you think. It is purifying and a good help against cholesterol. It can be seasoned raw with oil and lemon, but it is more digestible when cooked.
  • Radish. Its sulfur and vitamin C compounds confer antioxidant properties. Stimulates appetite and helps to purify.
  • sweet potato or sweet potato Like the carrot and as it reveals its orange color, it is rich in beta-carotene. It provides B vitamins (especially folic acid) and vitamin C, as well as manganese, potassium and iron. Those with more orange flesh are sweeter and richer in beta-carotene. In the kitchen they can be prepared like potatoes, but they are more digestible.
  • yucca or cassava. Increasingly present in our markets, it is used in recipes such as potatoes: roasted, boiled, mashed or fried in the form of chips. It is a good source of energy, with small doses of vitamins and minerals. It should not be eaten raw, as it contains a toxin that is eliminated after cooking.
  • celery. Rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin E, it also provides significant amounts of sodium, calcium, magnesium, iodine and fluoride. It is excellent raw grated along with carrots, apples, pineapples and walnuts.
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celery

How to prepare roots and tubers

  • Carrots and radishes can be eaten raw in a salad. Also celery, beetroot and tender turnips, although not usual.
  • The radishes, washed well, can be eaten with the skin, in a salad or mixed with mayonnaise or yogurt sauce. They are very refreshing and also decorative. They can be turned with a knife or cut into slices to add a colorful touch to the canapés.
  • Grated, in sticks or slices, the carrot goes well with sauces for crudités: guacamole, alioli, tartar… Coconut and orange harmonize with its flavor; also cheese, raisins and parsley. They are glazed, steamed, their sweetness is used in creams, they are used in sauces and stir-fries, and they look wonderful in jams and almond cakes.
  • Turnips can be served as a side dish, cooked with onions to obtain a fragrant and velvety cream, au gratin with cream and cheese, or stuffed. They are exquisite in vegetable stews seasoned with peanuts. They ask for condiments like nutmeg, mustard, parsley and pepper.
  • The strong flavor of parsnips is ideal for broths, but the tenderest examples also enrich soups and creams, cakes and pancakes. It combines with carrots and potatoes, and its flavor is enhanced with aniseed, coriander, fennel or parsley.
  • Beetroot offers spectacularly sweet-tasting soups, creams and sauces. Combine with apple and creamy dairy products. Cooked and grated, it is often used in multicolored salads. It is very tasty mixed with yogurt or mayonnaise as a sauce for some beans. It can also be baked in the oven, wrapped in aluminum foil.
  • Sweet potatoes are good both as a side dish and in sweet recipes with honey or sugar and nuts.
  • And potatoes are used in a multitude of recipes: boiled, fried, stewed, stuffed, baked, gratin, in omelet, salad…
  • Salsify deserves a special mention, a root that is little known except in very specific areas, such as Gerona, where an indigenous cuisine is prepared, of which it is a star product. They are boiled and sautéed, fried or grilled, or au gratin and used as a side dish or sauce.

How to best preserve them

The roots can last a few weeks in the fridge. They should be kept in a drawer, separate from the fruit, and should not be washed first. The leaves are removed, but a piece of stem is left.

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The tubers, in turn, are kept out of the fridge, in a dark, cool and dry place; in a wicker basket they will be able to breathe and mold formation is prevented.

If you want to know more about how to keep your vegetables fresher longer, read here.

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