In Season - Root Vegetables

TurnipsUnder rated for decades, root vegetables - broadly categorised as plants with edible underground parts, but most often referring to those with tap roots and tuberous roots such as carrots, parsnips and potatoes - have been the mainstay of traditional northern European diets for many centuries.

Easy to grow, these high-carbohydrate culinary work horses are packed with energy, have a long season and can be kept for months without refrigeration. Being of such practical trouble-free use, it’s easy to see why more delicate and demanding vegetables have tended to steal the limelight in the years when ‘food as fashion’ emerged, but they are still our best friends, wonderful comfort foods and the basis of so many of our simple and delicious traditional dishes.

Easily available ‘true roots’ include tap roots like beets, turnips and radish, as well as the increasingly popular celeriac and the rarer but delicately delicious salsify - which is well worth seeking out - and tuberous roots which include Jerusalem artichokes as well as potatoes.

Bulbs - onions, shallots, garlic - also count as root vegetables since they grow underground, as do some of our more exotic rhizome kitchen staples, like ginger, turmeric and arrowroot.

Considering this wide range - and there are many more, less well known - the potential for these wholesome and often colourful foods is huge. They are also cheap to buy and easy to cook, making a great foundation for wholesome budget meals.

It’s good to see root vegetables returning to favour in restaurant kitchens - albeit mostly in unfamiliar (‘baby’ and ‘heritage’) forms, and we should be making the most of them at home too.

Calso CooksRECIPE: Roasted Vegetable Mix with Maple Syrup

This variation on a popular way with root vegetables is from Calso Cooks: Real Food Made Easy (Mercier Press, paperback, €19.99) by West of Ireland food blogger, Paul Callaghan.

Food as therapy is a strong thread of the theme here, as the Armagh native explains how he moved to Co Clare after losing his business in the recession and, having found a house to rent with a large garden, discovered that growing and cooking his own food gave him a reason to get up in the morning - and soon became a serious source of delight to family and friends. The design and production style is all bit home-made, but that is part of the charm.

“I’m a huge fan of roasted veg. It only takes a little bit of time to prepare and minimal looking after. This selection is my usual handy roast dinner accompaniments but there is no end to the selections you can have.”

Feeds 4


3 carrots
3 parsnips
2 courgettes
2 red onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
5 cloves of garlic
olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to season
2 tablespoons maple syrup


1. Preheat the oven to 200’F

2. Peel the carrots and parsnips and cut into batons. Wash the courgettes and cut into batons also. Peel the onions and cut into wedges. De-seed and slice the peppers. Bash the cloves of garlic with the flat of a knife.

3. Pour all the prepared ingredients into a roasting tray. Drizzle with oil and give a generous amount of seasoning. Place in oven for 30 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and drizzle the maple syrup over the vegetable mix and give it a good toss around. Then pop it back into the oven for 10 minutes.

5. Serve hot and remove the garlic cloves if desired.

6. TIP: If you are feeling adventurous, then feel free to add flavouring to this dish - some herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage…spices like fennel, cumin or caraway seeds - wholegrain mustard, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce…basically whatever you like!

[Ed’s note: You might also try replacing the imports like olive oil and maple syrup with Irish products such as rapeseed oil and Highbank apple syrup. GC]

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