Roots are vegetables of which we eat the underground part. This part is often the reserve organ of a plant in which the plant's energy and water is stored. It is the root that ensures the survival of plants in winter when the cold has killed all the aerial parts of the plant.
Root vegetables: what are they?
Root vegetables in history
Before the arrival of the potato in the diet in the 18th century, root vegetables were part of the basic human diet. This family of vegetables was more resistant to insects and frost in winter. Thus, farmers in the Middle Ages consumed large quantities of salsify and parsnips, vegetables that have partly fallen into oblivion today.
Then came the potato which dethroned these basics thanks to its easier and more profitable cultivation with varied nutritional intake.
Ancient root vegetables came back into fashion during the wars, when potato stocks were reserved for the army to feed all the soldiers at the front. Jerusalem artichokes, rutabagas, parsnips and other roots became the basis of wartime meals. But as soon as the Liberation, they were abandoned because they were too reminiscent of those difficult times.
Today, ancient vegetables are slowly reappearing with the will of society to eat more healthy and varied food.
4 sub-groups of vegetables known as "roots".
As explained above, root vegetables are generally tubers of plants. However, this is not the case for all of them. In all, there are four subgroups of soil vegetables.
Tuberized stems are stems that have mutated into "hypocotyl". These mutations are intended to build up reserves.
The bulbs are the embryonic part of the plant. They contain the plant's nutrient supply and are resistant to difficult climatic conditions. They are the ones that will bud and develop into a plant.
The tubers are the reserve organs that resist cold or drought. They contain the substances that allow the plant to survive, such as starch.
Rhizomes are underground stems that often develop horizontally. They store the plant's nutrient reserves and contain carbohydrates. They allow the plant to develop by vegetative multiplication.
List of root vegetables most used in our diet
The best known root vegetables are of course carrots and potatoes. But there are many other roots, bulbs, tubers and rhizomes whose names are not unknown to us.
This list is not exhaustive and other less known root vegetables grown elsewhere such as cassava, ginseng or yucca can be found.
The benefits of roots in the diet
Root vegetables are always appreciated, especially in winter, because they are perfect for filling up with vitamins and they have the advantage of keeping well if stored away from light and heat.
In addition to vitamins (B1 and C), those vegetables are rich in fibre, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. This is why they are so popular in winter. They provide nutrients at a time when our bodies need them the most.
Of course every vegetable is different and has its own personal properties.
Sweet potatoes contain a lot of carbohydrates, magnesium and potassium. It also contains beta-carotene which is good for its antioxidant action.
Celery is very low in calories and supports the heart, liver and kidneys by eliminating toxins.
Parsnip is rich in vitamin B and renews skin cells.
Leek is moisturizing and contains calcium, beta carotene and vitamin B9.
Beet provides better oxygenation of the blood.
Turnip is 90% water and contains phosphorus, ideal for strengthening bones and teeth.
How to cook the roots
Root vegetables lose their virtues when overcooked. Therefore, it is better to eat them raw. They are also delicious when eaten as juice or smoothies.
If you still want to cook them, gentle cooking methods such as steaming, low-temperature ovens or woks are preferable, because the higher the cooking temperature, the less nutrients will remain in the vegetable.