As the term clearly suggests, root vegetables are edible parts of plants harvested from their underground system. Despite the name, this category includes both true roots and non-roots (or modified stems) of plants. However, two things shared by all types of root vegetables are, they serve as the main function of storing nutrients for the plants, and are extracted from underneath the soil surface.

Classification of Root Vegetables

All of us are aware of the fact that plant roots perform the function of anchoring to the soil and drawing moisture along with nutrients from the soil medium. But some plants have specialized roots that help to store maximum nutrients. Altogether the roots of a plant are called the root system. The list of root vegetables is definitely a long one. Before we take a look at the various types, let's take a brief look about edible stems and roots that are grouped under these vegetables.

Taproot: This is a true root and not a modified stem. It is an enlarged, fleshy root that is broad at the top and tapers gradually at the base. From the sides of the main taproot, other smaller fibrous roots emerge laterally. Examples of taproots that are consumed as vegetables include carrot, radish and turnip.

Tuberous Root: Colloquially known as a storage root, it is a lateral root that has been modified to serve as a storage portion for the plant under inactive growth season. Common examples of tuberous root are yam and sweet potato, which we all are familiar with. As expected, it is large-sized, starchy and contains high amounts of nutrients.

Bulb: A bulb is a fleshy, globular stem, used for vegetative propagation. Alone this structure acts as a dormant phase for seed producing plants (for example; dahlia bulbs, onion bulbs, etc.) under unfavorable conditions, and houses a tender bud. When the favorite conditions arrive, the resting bud germinates and grows into a new plant.

Rhizome: It is another underground structure that grows in a horizontal manner. Even when the parent plant dies due to unfavorable growth conditions, this underground stem survives, allowing the plant to propagate asexually. It later produces both roots and shoot for further growth. Examples of rhizome vegetables are turmeric, lotus root and arrowroot.

Tuber: Many fleshy and dense root vegetables are of tuber type. This is another modified stem, which is adapted for storing plant nutrients and also, for vegetative reproduction. Potato is one such example of tuber that is consumed as a starchy vegetable. Other examples of the same category are groundnut, Jerusalem artichoke and tiger nut.

Corm: Very often, we confuse a corm with tuber. Also referred to as bulbotuber, it is a vertical, short and bulbous stem. The plants that form a corm use this modified stem for asexual reproduction during extreme cold and hot climatic conditions. Examples of edible corms consumed as vegetables include taro, chestnut and cocoyam.

Common Types of Root Vegetables

When it comes to plantation of root vegetables, they are very easy and require less effort. Nearly all of them are used for asexual reproduction processes. They themselves are responsible for vegetative propagation, when the parent plants are not in a condition to produce seeds. In short, root vegetables play a major role in helping the plants to overcome the least hospitable environmental conditions.

A carrot is an excellent root vegetable for raw diet plan. This orange colored taproot is a rich source of beta carotene and is beneficial for improving eyesight. Carrots are also added in a number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian stir fry recipes. So, if you have a vegetable garden, you should definitely try growing this root vegetable.

Talk about the types of root vegetables and you really cannot skip potato. Yes, this starchy vegetable is an essential crop for the world food supply, leading 4th in the list of largest food crops. This tuberous root is starchy and comes in various varieties (approximately 4,000 species). It can be stored easily and serves an excellent vegetable for every season.

Most of us are well acquainted with the red colored beets or beetroots. But these types of root vegetables are also available in white, striped and golden colors. Beets are popularly consumed by baking, steaming or boiling. But, you can saute them with flavorful vegetable oil or butter for a real treat. They can also be pickled for preservation.

Radish is not just a vegetable, but it holds a specific place in herbal treatment. A good source of vitamin C, it is found in different shapes, colors and sizes. Classification of this tuber vegetable is done with respect to the growing season. What's more, the top green portion of radishes can be consumed like other leafy vegetables.

Garlic shares the same family with onion, and is appreciated for its wide range of uses. Indeed, there is hardly any herbaceous plant that is as valuable as garlic in both culinary and medicinal applications. Though the leaves are also harvested for cooking purposes, the underground bulb is more commonly used in raw or cooked form.

Who doesn't know onion, garlic and ginger? They are the most frequently used flavoring ingredients for food recipes. There are varied types of onions, which differ in color, size and taste. All parts of the onion plant are edible and you can use them in salads, cooking and preserved foods. Onions are found raw, pickled, canned, powdered, caramelized and in several other forms.

Ginger and Turmeric
The rhizomes of ginger and turmeric plants are harvested for use as spices. They act as flavoring agents in cooking varied dishes. In addition, they are highly prized herbs in medicine and cosmetics. You might be already aware about the antiseptic properties of turmeric, and drinking ginger tea for cold and cough. The rhizomes are sold in raw, dried or in powdered forms.

Root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, can be used in various ways. They impart a nice color, flavor and taste to various dishes. The starchy roots can be eaten raw, baked, grilled or you can simply fry them. Whichever method you cook them, these vegetables yield carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and many other nutrients for a complete diet.