Root vegetables are an important, nutritious garden crop. Here’s more information on growing, harvesting, storing, and eating root vegetables.
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Root vegetables are known for their high nutrient value, and these nutrients are found both in the roots and the leaves. Consequently, growing root vegetables gives us two nutrient-dense harvests in one space, which can help maximize the use of a garden area.
First we’ll take a look at selecting root crops to meet your needs. Then I’ll share resources for growing tips and recipe ideas.
5 Considerations for Growing Root Vegetables
#1: Root Vegetables with the Best Edible Leaves
Although root crops are usually grown for their root production, they produce an abundance of edible greens that can reduce food expenses and catapult the nutrient density of meals.
Here are my favorite root vegetables to grow for their leafy greens (chosen for their nutrient density, ease of harvest, and their usefulness in the kitchen):
- garlic (scapes)*
*To harvest garlic scapes, grow a hardneck variety. I love German Red.
Would you like to learn more about growing root vegetables successfully?
You’ll find loads of information just like this in my book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.
#2: Root Vegetables to Plant mid-Summer for a Fall/Winter/Early Spring Harvest
The following are root crops that I sow July through mid August, grow them throughout the fall, and harvest them in the winter and early spring. As the temperatures get colder in the winter, you may need to consider frost protection such as row cover or a cold frame.
#3: Root Vegetables that Store the Longest
The following root vegetables are harvested in summer and fall, and can store for a long time to give you fresh produce in winter.
- turnips (the purple top variety stores the best)
#4: Best Root Vegetables for Nutrient Dense Carbs
I’m always thinking about ways that I can produce more of my own food and rely on the grocery store less. Many root vegetables can replace grains in meals without sending your blood sugar through the roof. Since most of us can’t grow grains in our own backyard, these are the roots that I use often for my grain-free, low-carb meals.
These crops are good to have in storage as part of your basic emergency preparedness like for power outages or winter storms that may affect your ability to buy and store food.
- sweet potatoes
Although most root vegetables can be eaten raw (except potatoes and sweet potatoes), they are often enjoyed more when cooked (FYI I love grating fresh root vegetables over a salad—all the nutrition without the taste).
In an emergency situation, you’ll want to have a rocket stove (it can cook a whole meal with just twigs as fuel!) or other outdoor cooking source to prepare your root vegetables. Keep the following supplies handy in case of an emergency: A cast iron skillet (here’s mine), a healthy fat to grease the pan such as ghee or coconut oil, bottled/filtered water for rinsing, and a vegetable peeler (I just purchased this one and it’s awesome!). Finally, saute root veggies until soft and season with salt.
#5: Interesting, Lesser Known Root Vegetables to try
There are plenty of lesser known root vegetables that I haven’t highlighted, but are definitely worth checking out. They have many of the same qualities as more common root vegetables, in that they are nutritious, many of them store well, and can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen.
- celery root
- fennel bulb
- parsley root
- shallot bulbs
I try to grow at least one lesser known root vegetable in my garden each year to broaden my palate. You never know what you’re missing until you try it!
Are you looking for a time-saving and practical solution to food preservation?
Building a Homestead Root Cellar is a 50-page downloadable E-book with detailed instruction and dozens of color photos.
Root cellaring is a traditional way of storing and preserving food through the winter that is safe, easy, and fun.
From the author of this E-book: “Since completing our homestead root cellar, we put up more food than ever – ferments, vegetables, apples, cheeses, cured meats – with less effort, time, and money.”
Check out the Building a Homestead Root Cellar E-book!
Resources for Growing and Harvesting Tips + Using root vegetables and their greens in the Kitchen
If you’re ready to get started growing some of your own root vegetables, the following resources can help you to be successful and know what to do with them in the kitchen.
Along the lines of using the tops and bottoms of root vegetables, this post by Family Food Garden has some good tips.
- This article of mine covers it all: Growing & Harvesting Beets Year-Round + Recipes
- See my article: Growing Carrots Year-Round: A Strategy for Success
- Carrot Woes: Germinating with Burlap by 104 Homestead
- Planting Carrots that will Grow Long and Straight by Grace Garden and Homestead
- 6 Ways to Preserve Carrots by Homespun Seasonal Living
- How to Dehydrate Carrots by Grace Garden and Homestead
- How to Freeze Carrots by The Rustic Elk
- Spicy Carrot Sunflower Soup by Homespun Seasonal Living
- Superfood Cole Slaw Recipe by Joybilee Farm
- How to Grow Garlic by Common Sense Homesteading
- 10+ Ways to Use Garlic Scapes by Grow a Good Life
- Lacto-fermented Garlic Scapes by Learning and Yearning
- My post about When to Harvest and How to Store Garlic has some great tips, even how to use leftover garlic plant matter to repel pests in the garden!
- Making Fermented Garlic and Ways to Use It by Learning and Yearning
- My post How to Make Garlic Powder will help you preserve your garlic when you’ve grown too much or would like a convenient way to use garlic in the kitchen without any prep work.
- How to Grow Kohlrabi by Little Sprouts Learning
Greens and herbs can be dried! This post by Little Sprouts Learning will show you how.
- Growing Onions from Seed – 5 Tips for a Great Harvest by Common Sense Homesteading
- How to Harvest, Cure, and Store Onions by Common Sense Homesteading
- Growing Early Potatoes in Cold Frames by Stoney Acres
- Growing Potatoes Using the Hilling Method by Stoney Acres
- How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket by The Homesteading Hippy
- How to Store Potatoes Most Efficiently by Grace Garden and Homestead
- How to Can Potatoes by The Homesteading Hippy
- How to Make Dehydrated Potato Flakes from Scratch by The Homesteading Hippy
- Lacto-Fermented Radishes and Turnips by Attainable Sustainable
- Radish Leaf Pesto by Attainable Sustainable
- Growing and Using Rutabagas by Homespun Seasonal Living
- Rutabaga and Daikon Peanut Slaw by Homespun Seasonal Living
- Growing Sweet Potatoes by Attainable Sustainable
- Early Greens: Sweet Potato Leaves by Attainable Sustainable
- See my post Harvesting, Curing, and Storing Sweet Potatoes to make sure your sweet potatoes last through the winter!
- Braised Turnips and Apples Recipe by Homestead Honey
- Recipe: Turnip Hash Browns (I eat these hash browns as a breakfast or side dish. Dee-lish.)
For information about storing root vegetables without a root cellar, see this post by Melissa K. Norris.
Need more ideas for growing vegetables in the permaculture garden?
- Harvesting, Curing, and Storing Sweet Potatoes
- Protect Cold Weather Crops with a Cold Frame
- How to Prepare for the Winter Garden
What are your favorite root vegetables? What is your primary motivation for choosing which root vegetables to grow?