Root Vegetable Buyer's Guide
Shopping, cooking and storage tips for six common root vegetables.
Root vegetables can be found pretty easily in large supermarkets and farmers’ markets. Roots keep best when stored in humid environments at near-freezing temperatures. Root vegetables will keep you nourished through the winter: they are nutritious carbohydrate choices because they’re rich in fiber and protective antioxidants, such as vitamin C (rutabagas and turnips) and vitamin A (carrots). And they’re all good sources of folate, a water-soluble B vitamin that’s needed to form healthy new cells.
The most common beets are dark red, but other types, such as golden and ‘Chioggia’—an heirloom variety with concentric rings of red and white flesh—are also available and have a similar sweet, earthy flavor. Beets should be firm and are sold with or without their greens attached. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.
One of the few roots commonly eaten raw, carrots come in a range of colors from orange to mauve, yellow, red and even black. Look for firm, unblemished carrots. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 3 weeks.
The gnarled celeriac, also known as celery root, has a subtle celery-like flavor. Look for firm bulbs free of soft spots. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 weeks.
Parsnips look like large, off-white carrots and have a slightly sweet, anise-like flavor with a nutty aftertaste. Look for sturdy, firm parsnips, free of soft spots. Remove the fibrous, woody core before using: quarter parsnip lengthwise and cut out the core with a paring knife. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 3 weeks.
The pale golden-fleshed rutabaga has purple-yellowish skin that’s often thinly coated with wax to prolong storage. They have an earthy, buttery flavor. Look for firm, unblemished bulbs. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 weeks or refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Turnips have purple-white skin similar to that of rutabagas and their white flesh has a grassy, mellow flavor. Look for smaller turnips with firm skin. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
How to Peel Root Vegetables
Beets, carrots and parsnips are easily peeled with a vegetable peeler, but for tougher-skinned roots like celeriac, rutabaga and turnips, removing the peel with a knife can be easier. Cut off one end of the root to create a flat surface to keep it steady on the cutting board. Follow the contour of the vegetable with your knife. If you use a vegetable peeler on the tougher roots, peel around each vegetable at least three times to ensure all the fibrous skin has been removed.
What to Do with Greens
Beets, turnips and carrots are sometimes sold with their greens still attached. They’re all edible, so don’t throw those greens away. Trim and store them in a plastic bag separately from the roots. If left attached, the greens will continue to draw moisture from the roots and dry them out. Try the greens in recipes calling for dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach or collards.