“The first gatherings of the garden in May of carrots, radishes and parsnips made me feel like a mother about her baby - how could anything so beautiful be mine? There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling,
as gathering the vegetables one has grown.” - Alice B. Toklas.
Root vegetables can be intimidating. Most of them have thick, strange looking skin and long stems with leaves sprouting out of them. Let’s face it - some of
them look like they’re from outer space. Some root vegetables also have the reputation of tasting earthy and even bitter. Yet in the final analysis, the world would be a poorer place without them. Roots are some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables
in the world. They are packed with a high concentration of antioxidants, Vitamins A, B and C and iron, helping to cleanse your system. They are also filled with slow-burning carbohydrates and fibre, which make you feel full, and help regulate your blood sugar
and digestive system. Many also ripen in winter, when few greens are available, and they can be stored for long periods.
The undisputed top dog among root vegetables is the potato, followed closely by the carrot. Carrots are popular because they
are also perfect for eating raw. They match well with just about any vegetable in both cooked and raw applications. Parsnips have a cinnamon-y flavour and resemble large white carrots. They are harder than carrots and have a deeper, warm flavour. Sweet
potatoes are great mashed, in soup, roasted or baked, and can be used both in sweet and savoury applications. Beets are among the healthiest foods on the planet. They’re full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory and have a wonderful earthy,
sweet flavour to boot. And let’s not forget onion & garlic. Not only do they add a great deal of flavour to any dish - raw or cooked - but both are considered to be heart-healthy veggies that boost blood circulation and act as an anti-inflammatory.
Other root vegetables less well-known in South Africa include the leek, the turnip (and its first cousin the rutabaga), Jerusalem artichoke, celeriac, horse radish, yuca root, kohlrabi and yams. Among many South Africans, the Amadumbe or African
Potato (the bulb of the Elephant’s Ear plant) is a staple.
The following recipe is basically a guideline; you can tweak the ingredients to your heart’s content!
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 90 minutes
400g Potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces
400g Sweet potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces
400g Amadumbe, peeled and cut into 2cm slices
400g Carrots, peeled and cut into
400g Parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm roundels
2 Large red onions, cut into 1cm slices
2 Large leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 2cm roundels
10 Garlic cloves, peeled
6 Sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Non-stick vegetable oil spray
- Position an oven rack in the bottom third of oven, and another rack in the centre of the oven.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
- Spray 2 large baking sheets with the non-stick spray.
- Combine all the ingredients except the garlic and thyme in a large bowl and toss to coat the vegetables with oil.
- Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Divide the vegetable
mixture between the prepared baking sheets.
- Place 1 sheet on each oven rack.
- Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Reverse the positions of the two baking sheets.
- Add 5 garlic cloves and 3 sprigs of
thyme to each baking sheet.
- Continue to roast until all vegetables are tender and brown in spots, stirring and turning vegetables occasionally, about 45 minutes longer.
- Remove the vegetables and allow them to rest on the baking sheets at
- When the rest of the meal is nearly ready, quickly re-heat in the hot oven until heated through.
- Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large bowl and serve.
“Accepting your own mortality
is like eating your vegetables: You may not want to do it, but it's good for you.” - Caitlin Doughty.