Okinawa Sweet Potato Want something new and exciting for dinner? Try these lavender Okinawa sweet potatoes...or the dozens of other exotic and heirloom vegetables we present for your consideration. Photo courtesy of




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ELIZABET TRAVIS is an Editorial Intern at THE NIBBLE.



July 2008

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Vegetables

A Glossary Of Exotic & Heirloom Vegetables

Page 13: Exotic & Heirloom Root Vegetable Types


CAPSULE REPORT: This is Page 13 of a 15-page glossary of a glossary of exotic and heirloom vegetables. Click on the black links below to see other pages.



We’ll continue to add to this selection of root vegetable types.

Root Vegetables Get To Know Me

Black Radish

An heirloom vegetable with a rough black root that must be peeled before being eaten, this radish has a distinctive bitter taste. It can be shaved into salads, but is also good boiled and mashed.

Available year-round.

black raddish


This is cultivated for its slender roots, and is most popular in Asia. Usually soaked to remove the dirt flavor, they are then a crisp and sweet vegetable that is high in fiber and most often braised.



Celeriac has a large tap root and a celery flavor that is often used in soups or stews. They are edible raw or cooked, but are best eaten peeled.



A mild-flavored East Asian white radish. It is most prevalent in Japanese cooking, where it is often pickled and used as a garnish or condiment. In Chinese cuisine, it accompanies the small plates one eats during a meal of Dim Sum.

Available year-round.



Jicama is native to Mexico and Central America. The interior is creamy white with a crisp texture that resembles a raw potato or pear. Sweet and Spicy, they add great crunch to a salad, or eaten traditionally with a little lime juice and chile powder.

Available year-round.


Lotus Root

This is the root of the Lotus Water Lily. On the inside are several large air pockets that run the length of the root and give the Lily buoyancy A crisp fibrous texture with a mild distinctive flavor similar to an artichoke makes them great mashed or fried.

Available year-round.

lotus root


These vegetables come from some of the oldest root crops in the world and were first cultivated in the Caribbean and Central America. Resembling a yam, the flavor is earthy, and has a similarity to nuts.

Available year-round.


Maroon Carrots

This carrot is a deep wine color on the outside with a brilliant orange within. They are rich in flavor and have smooth, edible skins. Sweeter and crunchier than the orange variety, they add color and flavor to salads or soups.

Available year-round.

maroon carrots

Name Root

Shaped like a long sweet potato, the flesh is creamy or yellow in color while its skin can be light brown, dark brown or tan. It is somewhat nutty with a slightly chewy texture similar to a potato. It can be baked, boiled, steamed, scalloped, fried or stewed.

Available year-round.

name root

Parmex Carrot

Originally from France, these carrots are wonderfully tender with a very smooth skin. They are crunchy, sweet and bite-size, making them most tempting when sautéed in butter.


Parsley Root

This vegetable is most popular in European cooking. They are shaped like carrots and are ivory in color. Their leaves have a slightly more bitter flavor than parsley. They have an earthy taste and rich texture. Great in cassoulets or alongside pork.

Available year-round.

parsley root


A superb sweet and nutty flavor, parsnips are smooth skinned and slender. They can be roasted in olive oil along with other root vegetables and served as a side dish or a main dish over rice.

Available year-round.


Purple Dragon Carrot

What a color contrast with the purple outside and striking orange on the inside. The carrot itself is sweet and a little spicy. They are lovely chopped into salads.



Originating in the Mediterranean, it is known for its oyster-like flavor, and is also thought to be similar to the artichoke. It has the texture of an artichoke heart, and the shoots can be used in salads.

Available year-round.




White Satin Carrot

This is one of the most mild flavored carrots, with a sweetness to it and a crispy texture. They still share the same nutritional strength of their orange cousins.



(For more exotic squash varieties, see the Squash Glossary)


Bennings Green Tint Squash

A variety of patty pan squash, with a uniform saucer shape and scalloped edges. They have a fine-textured flesh and good flavor.


Flying Saucer Squash

This variety is best when young and tender. Their neat saucer shape and vibrant colors make them a lovely and flavorful dish sautéed, stuffed or stir-fried.


Japanese Cucumber

A few white spines appear on this cucumber’s light green skin, which encloses a crisp white flesh and very low seed content. They can be a substitute for English cucumbers.

Available year-round.

japanese cucumber

Mo Qua

A squash of Chinese origin and a relative of winter melon. It looks like a zucchini covered in fuzzy white hairs. Inside, the light-colored, slightly firm flesh is mild  and will absorb the flavor of whatever food it is cooked with.

Available year-round.

mo qua

Papaya Pear Squash

A bright yellow squash that is tasty raw or cooked. The white flesh is firm and flavorful and the shape makes it ideal for stuffing.


Pul Qua

A squash that originated in southeast Asia. It is long and thin with smooth skin and a yellow-green color. They are a great source of vitamin C and calcium.

Available year-round.

pul qua

Sugar Hubbard Squash

This squash is best cooked diced or cubed, since the rind is bitter and difficult to cut through.



A tropical sweet potato popular in Hispanic communities, it is fluffier, drier and less sweet than a traditional sweet potato. It has a pink to burgundy skin and a white or cream-colored flesh.

Available year-round.


Cranberry Red Potato

This potato will hold its rich cranberry-red color through cooking. They have an earthy, buttery flavor and a silky-smooth flesh that makes them great for potato salad.



Grown in the Central and Southern Andes, the flavor is slightly tangy and the texture is crunchy until cooked when it can become mealy.

Available June to October.


Okinawa Sweet Potato

A Hawaiian sweet potato with white skin and lavender flesh. They are best served baked.

Available spring through fall.

okinawa sweet potato

Peruvian Purple Potato

From the South American Andes Highlands, it has a purple skin and flesh. They are the mealiest of the fingerling potatoes and so are best served fried.


Cassava Root

This root serves as the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world. The root is long and tapered, and the vegetable is also referred to as Yuca. When raw, Cassava tastes like a mix between potato and coconut, but once it is cooked it takes on a delicate flavor and could replace potatoes in many dishes.


Chinese Celery

The stalks are thin and hollow and the color can range from white to dark green. They have a strong bitter flavor and are seldom eaten raw.

Available year-round.

chinese celery


A vegetable that comes from the Prickly Pear, and is exposed when peeled to remove the spines. Native to Mexico, they have a light, slightly tart flavor, and a crisp, gluey texture. Popularly served with eggs or in tacos.

Available year-round.


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