Although we’ve been spared any tropical storms so far this year, such storms can do a lot of damage to crops and flowers above ground, the wind knocking the plants over and the salt spray doing a job on the leaves.

One type of crop that is less affected by such storms are root vegetables, things like onions, garlic, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, yams, potatoes and sweet potatoes. They are in the ground, waiting to be harvested. Other things can get them, but not storms.

Root vegetables are a wonderful thing to grow. I am very fond of using them as part of my year-round menus.

I have to admit, though, that I did not always feel this way. As a child I hated turnips and beets. My older sister Debby had a fondness for rutabagas or yellow turnips, and every year in April on her birthday, we had them as part of our dinner. I ate them grudgingly, washing them down with plenty of milk because I had to (we were brought up to eat everything that was served to us), not because I wanted to. That has changed.

Rutabagas, or Swedes, are also in the same family as turnips. Some botanists think rutabagas may be the offspring of wild cabbage and the turnip. They have a firm, yellow-orange flesh, are denser and a little sweeter than turnips. They are half yellow-orange and half burgundy or purple on the outside. Most commercial rutabagas are waxed, so they have to be peeled before cooking them.

Low in fat and rich in carbohydrates, turnips are related to cabbage, one website said, a part of the cruciferous vegetable family. We eat them steamed, in stir fries and mashed with potatoes.

There are all kinds of turnips; one of my spring and early summer favorites is the white variety with purple tops. Their flavor is slightly sharp, different from the yellow turnips.

Thin sliced red and golden beets from a high angle view.

Beets were another vegetable that I tolerated in my childhood. It wasn’t until I took a trip to England when I was in my mid-20s and discovered julienned pickled beets, as part of a cold salad, that revised my earlier opinion of them. I still find the taste of cooked beets too earthy to be served just plain. But pickling them is easy and I have found recipes that I actually like. I’m including two beet salad recipes here: I have used one and Joanne Brianna-Gartner, entertainment editor of The Enterprise brought in one of hers.

I think the key to overcoming most food prejudices is finding a way to prepare them, recipes that suit your palate.

The sweeter root veggies, sweet potatoes, yams and parsnips were never a problem for me to love. Who can resist sweet potato pie or candied yams and carrots? And parsnips are wonderful both by themselves and in soups and stews.

Someone asked me the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, and I will share what I found online. Perhaps it’s the fact that sweet potatoes have more than one appearance that can make them so confusing.

Sweet potatoes are yellow or orange tubers with ends that taper to a point. The paler, thin-skinned variety with pale yellow flesh has a drier crumblier texture similar to a baking potato. The darker skinned variety (often called a yam by mistake) has thicker skin that’s dark orange to reddish, with vivid orange sweet flesh and a moist texture.

Baked sweet potato slices with spices in the oven dish. Healthy vegan food concept.

Real yams come from a tropical vine and are not even related to the sweet potato. They have brown or black skin and off-white, purple or red flesh, depending on the variety. They have “more natural sugar than sweet potatoes” and “have higher moister content.” There are more than 150 types of yams worldwide.

One simple way I have found to enjoy sweet potatoes is to make a baked sweet potato fries. Just figure on one-half to one potato per person. Scrub them and then cut them in half and then each half into eight to 10 strips, sort of like oven French fries. Put them in a bowl with anywhere from 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil. Toss them to coat and then put them on a shallow pan in a 375° oven for 20 to 40 minutes. You may want to turn them over ate least once and check their progress at the same time. When they are cooked through and brown, take them out of the oven, sprinkle them with a little salt and serve. They are wonderful. You may find half of a potato is not enough. It depends on the size of the sweet potato you start with.

Another way to use these vegetables is in combination with something else. The white, purple top turnip is ideal for boiling with potatoes to make neaps and taters. I put two potatoes for each turnip. Boil them together and then mash them, with milk, butter, salt and pepper, as you would for your regular mashed potatoes.

Another variation on the last suggestion was given to me by Cindy Haskell, whom I worked with. She said in addition to the turnips, her mother-in-law, Sally Settino, a former Upper Cape resident, adds carrots (making the mixture 50 percent turnips and 50 percent carrots) and lightly chops them with two knives or a hand masher. Add salt and pepper and butter to taste. Cindy says the mixture is quite colorful and a welcome addition on Thanksgiving.

For this article, I have included three recipes for beets, which probably would surprise my family. I have also included one that uses grated carrots.

Though carrots are delicious almost anyway you serve them, I found a recipe that uses them with lamb. The recipe is from Sephardic Cooking by Copelands Marks, and the recipe is from Iran. This first recipe is the lamb one.

Preparation of fermented beets (beet kvass) in a glass jar

Lamb Cutlet

1 pound ground lamb

2 medium onions, chopped

3 carrots, grated

1 cup ground toasted chickpea flour (I have used plain breadcrumbs, too.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp ground cardamon

¼ tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp baking soda (optional)

2 to 3 tbsp cold water

Mix everything together except the oil, adding enough water to provide an easily handled batter.

Prepare round or oblong cutlets 3 inches in diameter, 1/2 -inch thick. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a skillet and brown the cutlets, covered over moderately heat for 3 minutes on each side. Drain briefly on paper towels.

Serve warm. Serves 4 to 6. Makes about 10 cutlets.

The beets in these next two recipes are not pickled.

Beet Salad
(From Sephardic Cooking)

¼ cup wine vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp sugar

1 garlic clove chopped fine

1 small onion, cut into thin slices (1/3 cup)

2 pounds canned beet slices, well drained (buy a jar of cooked beets for speedy preparation. I cut them into julienned slices)

¼ cup Spanish olives

Mix vinegar, oil, sugar and garlic together well.

Put onion, beets and olives in salad bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss the salad several times.

Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves 8.

Joanne’s Mustardy
Beet Salad

(From Jane Brody’s Good Food Book)


4 medium beets, unpeeled or 1 16-ounce can, sliced beets, drained


2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill or 2 tsp dried dill

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Dash freshly ground pepper

If using uncooked beets, cook beets in water to cover until they are just tender (about 1 hour). Leave 1 inch beet greens at top (so the beets don’t bleed).

Peel them crosswise (the skins should come off pretty easily)

Combine dressing ingredients in a medium bowl.

Add the beets and stir them gently to coat them with the dressing. Chill for an hour before serving.

Want to make your own pickled beets? Here is a recipe.

Cold Pickled Beets

One quart cold, boiled beets

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 pint mild vinegar such as cider vinegar.

Slice the beets, place in a mason jar, and cover with the seasoning and vinegar; add a little caraway seed or raw onion sliced if desired.

I hope that reading these recipes will inspire you to try them, or like me, you hated beets and turnips as a kid, maybe this article will make you reconsider trying a vegetable you did not like. Bon appetit.