Friday, 26 February 2016

My new roots

oca, turmeric, wasabi, chervil roots

Veg boxes are pretty dull from January to the end of April, often called 'The Hungry Gap'. I've been mucking about with new roots and tubers to add colour and flavour to my cooking.


What is it? a pink tuber originally from Peru.
Taste: it's hard to describe the taste other than citrussy potato
Health benefits: rich in Vitamin C, A, B6, iron and potassium 
Cooking suggestion: roast, boil, fry or eat raw, sliced thinly into salads.
Season: January and February, so they are finished this year but look out for them next year.
Where to get it: Riverford Organics.

Chervil roots

What is it? the white roots of the herb chervil
Taste: slightly aniseedy, sweet, starchy
Health benefits: digestive aid, lowers blood pressure
Cooking suggestion: roast, boil, fry or eat raw, sliced thinly into salads.
Season: Winter but they sweeten up if stored, better than fresh
Where to get it: , Turnips at Borough Market, Otter Farm Shop
Look out also for Parsley roots, which I haven't tried yet.


What is it? Wasabi is the real Japanese horseradish. Most wasabi paste is western horseradish or mustard with green food colouring
Taste: The real stuff doesn't burn, is subtler, with a strong herbal taste.
Health benefits: anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, good for teeth.
Cooking suggestion: Use quickly after grating. Grate onto noodle soup, use in sushi, on top of rice bowls, to garnish things that need a pop of heat like salads or fish.
Season: all year round
Where to get it: The Wasabi Company. They also sell the plants which need a lot of water.


What is it? Turmeric is the fresh root version of the dried spice that you put in curries.  It turns everything bright orange.
Taste: it has a kind of gingery, peppery, bitter taste
Health benefits: contains curcimin which is anti-inflammatory, good for brain disease, depression
Cooking suggestion: grate into curries, soups, salad dressings, yoghurt sauces, smoothies, Indian food
Season: all year round
Where to get it: I buy the roots in Asian shops, Sainsburys stock it, Abel and Cole, Planet Organic, Real Foods.


What is it? A long pale root.
Taste: some people say it tastes like oyster. Creamy.
Health benefits: iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, as well as vitamins including ascorbic acid, pantothenic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, folate and vitamin B6. Good for hair. Contains inulin which is useful for diabetes.
Cooking suggestion: gratins, roasted, boiled, baked, mashed.
Season: winter
Where to get it:


Carrot 'noodles' with matcha noodles and wasabi dressing

I was sent this new gadget Veggetti 2.0 for spiralising, it's not bad, does the job, costs under a tenner and doesn't take up much room. Soba noodles are a great store cupboard standby: they are gluten-free being made of buckwheat, and cook in a couple of minutes. You can get them plain, plum-flavoured pink or matcha green

Serves 2 as a main or 4-6 as a side

100g matcha soba noodles
3 carrots, spiralised
3 tbsps of pumpkin seeds

For the dressing:
3 tbsps ground nut oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1 inch (3 cms) wasabi root, grated

Cook the soba noodles in a saucepan full of boiling salted water for 2 or 3 minutes then strain into a colander and rinse with cold water.
Spiralise or grate the carrots.
Mix the noodles and carrots together in a bowl and add the pumpkin seeds. You could also top with avocado and chopped spring onion or alfalfa sprouts.
Mix the dressing together and pour over the noodle salad.

Pink salad with oca and chervil roots, turmeric dressing

Here I used a pink lettuce just for fun. It's nice to switch up 'eat your greens' into 'eat your pinks'. Same health benefits but a prettier colour. Might be a way to get children to eat salad?

Serves 2-4

Pink or green butterleaf head of lettuce is just as good, washed, leaves separated
a handful of chervil roots, scrubbed and sliced thinly
a handful of pink radishes, sliced thinly
a handful of oca, sliced thinly
a handful of pickled white grapes (optional, recipe in V is for Vegan)
a handful of green sultanas
3 tbsps of slithered almonds
A few crushed pink peppercorns

For the dressing:
3 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 small fresh turmeric root, grated

Toss the salad ingredients together then mix all the dressing ingredients together and drizzle on top.

Salsify Gratin

This is a wonderful side or main dish. I also serve them roasted with butter and a few flecks of salt.

Serves 4

Butter, for greasing
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 kilo (2 pounds approx) salsify roots
600ml single cream
1/2 glass of white wine
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
100g breadcrumbs
100g parmesan or pecorino, grated

Preheat the oven to 180cº.
Grease a shallow baking dish, long enough to fit the salsify.
Prepare a bowl of boiling water and squeeze in the lemon juice.
Peel the salsify roots and place them into the bowl with the lemon juice.
(This stops them discolouring).
When all the roots are prepared, drain away the water and place the roots in a single layer in the baking dish.
Pour in the cream and white wine and season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and cheese on top.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the top of the gratin is golden.


  1. Some interesting roots. Most of them new to me, thanks for sharing! I used to buy Parsley roots in Paris when I lived there. Simply boiled them and topped with butter and sea salt. Absolutely divine! Delicious nutty flavour.

    1. They do have more interesting roots in France. That was where I discovered both cardoons and salsify, never had them in the UK and wouldn't have recognised them.
      Turmeric is my new jam.
      Thanks for commenting Rachel xx

  2. Such an interesting post - not sure if all of these are available in Australia, on a mission now - but I think I could really take to 'eat your pinks'!

    1. Oca is also known as New Zealand yam so I guess you can find that over there Melanie

  3. Been growing Oca for two years now, Started with three - still bulking up the crop, and should have enough to start eating this season's harvest. Have also been bulking up Mashua, but have been harvesting some of the leaves. A few went in salads, but most went as chicken treats - the hens love them. I've just potted up a couple of Yacon tubers, and bought something called Ulluco the other week. Yacon we should have something to try this year, but given the size of the Ulluco, I think it's going to be another three year wait.


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