Root Vegetables vs. Tubers
Root vegetables (beets, carrots, and parsnips) and tubers (potatoes, yams, and jicama) are very similar in that they are both parts of a plant that grow under ground and whose main function is to store energy for the plant. This stored energy is used by the plant as fuel for growth, propagation, and reproduction.
During the winter, the underground portion of a plant stores vital energy after the leaves die back, which allows the plant to survive the winter and regenerate in the spring. Roots have strong absorption abilities and draw water and minerals from the soil for nourishment. For this reason they are very high in nutrients and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Tubers tend to have a lower nutrient content but are packed with stored energy and are thus an excellent form of carbohydrates.
Choosing the Perfect Vegetables
When purchasing, look for roots and tubers that are firm, heavy, and smooth skinned. If their leaves are attached, they should be crisp and bright green in color. Root vegetables tend to lose what little moisture they have quickly, so they are best stored without their greens, wrapped in a damp paper towel in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Tubers are best stored in a dark, cool, well ventilated place and not in the refrigerator. Most roots can be eaten raw or cooked; tubers, with the exception of jicama, are mostly eaten cooked.