You may find yourself wondering, just what is a root vegetable anyhow? The easy answer is right in the name. A root vegetable is a root. To be more exact, when the part of the vegetable that is eaten is a root, it is a root vegetable. Wonderful examples include Turnips, Carrots, and Beets.
A common misconception is that when the edible portion of a vegetable grows below ground this is a root vegetable. This is not true, by definition only vegetables that are in actuality roots are true root vegetables.
In cooking however that misconception is used as terminology, and so we have true root vegetables, modified stem vegetables, and bulb vegetables all being referred to loosely as root vegetables because they all grow underground.
True root vegetables can be separated into two groups taproot vegetables and tuberous root vegetables.
A taproot is a primary root that extends straight down and then allows smaller roots to branch from its surface. Taproot vegetables include wild celery, burdock, arracacha, beets, mangelwurzel, rutabagas, turnips, black cumin, carrots, maca, jimaca, parsnip, parsley root, daikon, radish, viper’s grass, skirrets, and oyster plant.
A tuberous root or tuber acts as a storage device for the plant and is bulbous or rounded. Tuber vegetables include; pig nuts, sweet potatoes, cassava, chago, breadroot, and the yacn.
Bulb vegetables, which as I said are not actually root vegetables at all, include; garlic, onions, shallots, quamash, fawn lily, as well as several other variety of lily.
The other root vegetable impostor modified stem vegetables are separated into three categories.
The first, corm vegetables are a short and fat underground stem which stores nutrients for the plant. Corm vegetables include; water chestnuts, konjac, taro, enset, arrowhead, and macabo.
The second, Rhizome vegetables consist of horizontal stems that send off shoots and roots from their nodes. Many plants propagate through Rhizomes. Rhizomes vegetables include; ginger, ginseng, turnmeric, vanilla lily, canna, lotus and arrowroot, and cattail.
The final category, stem tuber vegetables are similar to tuberous root vegetables except the thickened and bulbous portion develops from a stem rather than a root. Stem tuber vegetables include; artichokes, potatoes, groundnuts, chufa, yams, dazo, mashua and ulluco.
That was the complicated answer to what a root vegetable is, including a full list of included vegetables, which was likely more than you ever wanted to know about root vegetables. All that matters to me? Root vegetables are delicious!
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