Beyond Potatoes

Cousins of the spud take center stage
Yuca: This starchy root vegetable is native to South America, Africa and Asia. It’s full of potassium, even more than the average potato, and is high in vitamin C. It’s similar in appearance to a sweet potato but elongated with a bark-like skin and makes excellent fries! Photo by iStock / Getty Images Plus: Aamulya

Potatoes make a regular appearance on the plates of Americans across breakfast, lunch and dinner — hash browns and home fries, potato salad and baked potato soup, mashed potatoes and twice-baked potatoes. There’s no denying their popularity, ranking among the most common ingredients in side dishes across the country.

Potatoes first made their debut as part of the human diet about 8,000 years ago along the west coast of South America before making their way to Europe and eventually finding success as a staple crop in Ireland. With more than 4,000 types of this simple yet versatile root vegetable, the crop became common across countries worldwide.

Today, the commonplace tuber can sometimes result in complacency in the kitchen. If you find yourself stuck in a rut with your potato recipes, consider switching it up for another root vegetable. Many are close relatives of that russet potato most common in cooking, but each brings its own unique flavor to the table.

On your next trip to the grocery store, keep your eyes peeled for these tubers and root vegetables. Try your hand at expanding your palate, and surprise guests with a unique plate. That average russet sitting on your pantry shelf won’t mind taking a night off.


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Also known as Chinese truffle, this tuber aesthetically pleases with a deep purple flesh and dark blue skin. This violet-shaded potato absorbs oil well during cooking and carries a nutty flavor. It’s said to have increased health benefits the deeper its color.


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This crunchy tuber vegetable is known as the Mexican turnip. It has a sweet flavor similar to apples or cucumbers when eaten raw but becomes starchy when cooked like a potato. You can eat jicama raw as a snack, or add it to salads and soups for an extra crunch.



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Also called Peruvian ground apple, yacon can be eaten raw, with a sweet and crunchy texture similar to that of jicama, or cooked into desserts, jams or syrups. This tuber is rich in minerals and vitamins and supports detox of the liver.



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This rhizome rooting vegetable is similar in appearance to ginger root and is native to Southeast Asia where it’s commonly used in curries and stir-fries. The flavor has a slight spicy taste to it. Some define it as citrusy, with an earthy pine flavor.



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Also known as the watermelon radish, this root vegetable has a dense texture with a crunch and slightly sweet flavor and is closer to a daikon radish than a potato. It’s rich in vitamins, magnesium, minerals and potassium. The colors vary from deep purples to light lilacs, making for impressive dish presentations.





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This root vegetable might look a little bumpy and rough on the edges, but it’s almost a staple in German and Northern European cuisine, as well as in North Africa and Puerto Rico. The vegetable is the root base of a celery variety and can be eaten raw or cooked. Once peeled, it stores best in lemon water. Imagine a delicious silky soup with celeriac and potatoes or French celery remoulade.



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Think potato with class. Of the French fingerling variety, ratte is regarded as a gourmet ingredient loved by chefs worldwide. With a nutty flavor profile and smooth-as-butter texture, it’s popularly cooked as mashed potatoes or roasted with herbs.


La Bonnotte

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Moving from classy to luxurious, la bonnotte ranks as the world’s most expensive potato. Yes, there is such a thing, and this beauty could cost you about $300 a pound. It’s grown exclusively in France on the Isle of Noirmoutier. The close proximity to saltwater shores creates a sandy soil that is fertilized with seaweed, giving a distinct salty flavor. This potato is so delicate, it has to be harvested by hand. The result — notes of walnut with a lemony flavor and salty aftertaste, ideal for gourmet soups, purees and creams.

Categories: Cooking