My New Mexico conditions are harsh, but root vegetables do well anyway. They are mostly cool season plamts, and my cool summer nights are good as is my sandy loam, generally appreciated by the root community.
Starting out with Kohlrabi (Brassica oleraceae), which is not quite a root vegetable, but has a swollen stem that resembles turnip, I will continue to grow Early White Vienna Kohlrabi that mature in 55 to 60 days. This is an old variety, from back in the 1800s. All I need to do different this year is let some go to seed in the spring, and again in the fall. I plan to try a spring and fall planting this year. They aren’t big water users, a plus. I have to be careful about frost, because Kohlrabi keel over dead with a frost. I think these are sculpturally interesting plants, but I grow them for the flavor, which I like. The better reason to grow this cruciferous vegetable is for its powerhouse nutrition, its vitamins and minerals help regulate heart function and blood sugar. It has trace nutrients that we need like selenium, magnesium, and copper. The leaves are also edible. I eat the whole thing fairly young. I like them raw, but you can use the stem as a potato replacement in most recipes if you have diabetes. Mostly I eat the stem raw, like turnip slices or grated into a slaw and slice the greens into salads or soups.
I mentioned Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) under Bulk Calories as a potato substitute for diabetics. Here I want to add Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus maximilliani) because it is native to New Mexico and many western states. Maximilian Sunflower also has edible roots and if it grows naturally in your area, needs no supplemental watering. Too much water will make it floppy and fall over in the winds, as will overly rich soil. If you want to turn a dry and barren spot into food production, as I do, this is your workhorse. Seeds are readily available, and once established, this perennial will spread and provide food without work beyond harvesting. I had only one on my property when I moved in, but by last summer had encouraged a good patch. This spring I will seed a difficult full sun slope where my driveway curves in. It gets ferocious winds and I have not been able to establish wind break tree(s) there. I have managed wildflowers, so it looks better and holds the soil from erosion, but I want both food and a windbreak with my pretty flowers These get about 7 feet high and are a start. They are both cover and food for quail. Later they will be a nursery plant for a tree. The tubers aren’t as thick as Jerusalem Artichoke but they are good to eat. I will soften this hard corner.
A big problem with agriculture in the United States has been reliance on European species that are poorly adapted to this country. Instead of “improving” our hundreds of native species (as was done in Europe), we have tried to bend our land to accommodate European or Asian species and varieties. Now we are so accustomed to these tastes, we have a hard time considering that all First Americans lived on local foods.
If you are concerned about food security, including GMO contamination, and food riots because shipping is down worldwide, not much comes up as a better solution than native edibles, especially in poor conditions. This Sunflower will produce food where no standard garden vegetable would survive, increasing my food production area by about 300 square feet, no work. It will also pave the way for tree cover in a few years.
Although I listed “fancy” colored carrots with my stir-fry ingredients, for long term storage I have always used Danvers Half Long. The choice was made in Texas, where clay soils were less troublesome for these tasty, stubborn little workhorses. No matter that I have lovely sandy soil for monster carrots, and will grow a couple larger varieties, I will grow Danvers in bulk. I have a partially buried storage building that needs a little insulation to make a better root cellar, and look forward to storing fresh carrots in it. As always, I will eat fresh carrots all summer and dehydrate the balance and store them in glass jars all winter. I prefer dehydrated carrots in winter soups because they enrich the soup flavor. Carrots can and freeze well, and if you serve them as a side dish, that is a good way to store them. I don’t like them boiled so much, so I don’t. If you do dehydrate carrots, they store better in smaller containers that remain sealed and at the proper humidity. I have also made my own meals in a jar packed with dried carrots, rice, beans, etc. I generally use quart jars to hold dried carrots. If you prefer large containers, I suggest a half inch layer of dry white rice on the bottom as a dessicant.
To save seed of different carrot varieties, space plantings out by a few weeks, and note days to harvest! Danvers Half Long matures in 70 days, but Parisian Market matures in 50 to 60 days. I admit that I grow these little round carrots every spring just for the early harvest, they stretch productivity out by a couple weeks. Carrots do not like transplanting. My indoor garden room will easily grow Parisian Market carrots. I love my fresh carrots.
I like Gold Ball turnips, they are slower to maturity at 70 days, but are finer than US commercial standard Purple Globe turnips. I have always leaned toward flavor and quality in my garden, and these are smoother, meaty, and don’t get woody. Still, 70 days only gives me one crop in the mountains. Because I have committed myself to food security, this year I will plant Purple Globe also, for both an earlier crop and a second planting a few weeks after the first. Don’t forget that turnip greens are edible and very nutricious. Instead of large greens, I plant close and eat the greens from thinning plants… nice microgreens.
Aaaahhh, the much maligned Rutabaga (Brassica rapus). American Purple Top is slow to maturity at 90 days. I never let them get old and woody like most grocery store offerings. I eat them raw at an earlier stage, and if they manage to survive to rock hard maturity I grate them into a slaw. Anything left by first freeze gets dehydrated and stored in glass jars for winter soups. Rutabaga showed up wild in Sweden around 1620 and is a cross between turnip and cabbage. I will plant some in my garden to eat and for seed collection, but I will sow some seed in my wildflower beds to see if I can get a naturalized vegetable like my Western Salsify mentioned under Stir Fry. The wildflower bed soil is getting richer and holds more water these days.
In all, root vegetables are easy in my mountain paradise and nutricious and delicious to eat.