Years before I thought I could make a career out of cooking, all I knew about roots were BB King’s blues riffs and Bob Marley’s reggae swings. I didn’t grow up having a vegetable garden nearby, and I never had the desire to have a green thumb. Yet as I continue to mature through the wildest journey I have ever been on, my appreciation for certain things gets amplified, my head and my hands full of curiosity. I feel my own roots digging deeper for knowledge and to establish a stronger foothold on Earth’s wonders—from discovering ethnic beats to pulling beets out of the soil.

If food were compared to art, plating would be akin to painting. Flavor, on the other hand, would be music. Great music and masterful songs are embedded with sounds from back in the days, with deep-rooted rhythms that have body, boldness and character. This same analogy transfers to food: root vegetables create the foundations and building blocks of some outstanding combinations. From garlic and celeriac to cassava and carrots, the varieties of root vegetables are extensive, and each has its own individual identity and personality. These traits, when used creatively, give a dish soul.

Root crops have been staples for millennia, largely depended on for their ease of cultivation and their nutritional values. Today, these underrated vegetables are making a tremendous comeback. Thick, deformed and dry-looking skin tends to fend off even the most adventurous home cooks, yet beyond those outer layers lay some of the most nutrient-dense ingredients known today. As the category name suggests, root vegetables grow under the soil. Because of this, they absorb and contain great amounts of antioxidants and vitamins.

No matter what variety of root vegetable you choose, there is no wrong way of cooking it since, as with many other ingredients, certain cooking methods tend to yield stronger flavors than others. Grilled, boiled, sautéed or roasted all work well with most roots; finding a method that suits you is what matters.

Root vegetables can be grown all year round. Yet to take advantage of their full-bodied flavor, they are best eaten during the colder months. Most crops can be kept for months on end in a dark, cool area, and many chefs take advantage of this. Just like meat aging, vegetable aging has some amazing advantages when it comes to flavor.

No matter what variety of root vegetable you choose, there is no wrong way of cooking it since, as with many other ingredients, certain cooking methods tend to yield stronger flavors than others. Grilled, boiled, sautéed or roasted all work well with most roots; finding a method that suits you is what matters.

Roots have been brewers’ favorites for years as their high concentrations of sugar and starch help the fermentation process; vodka’s main ingredient, for example, are potatoes. The popularity of beetwine is slowly coming of age, with its earthy flavors and rich, sweet tones.

The next time you walk through a farmers market, take a closer look at the roots for sale, look beyond their ugly skins and soil-covered exteriors and experiment with the wonderful and nutritious flesh held within.

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