Q.

What’s the difference between a root, a corm, a tuber, and a rhizome?

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A.

Though they’re commonly called roots because they tend to grow under ground, not all edible roots are technically roots (meaning they have no leaves and usually act as anchors and food gathering/storage facilities). Others are actually stems.

Types of edible stems include:

Rhizomes – underground stems that tend to grow horizontally and send off both roots and shoots as they grow.

Corms – a specific kind of stem that has developed exclusively to store starch to protect against environmental changes such as drought.

Tubers – an enlarged type of stem called a stolon also used in food storage (but that can also be used to propogate crops).

Does it matter from a home chef’s perspective? Not really. Only a single stem/root type tends to be used from each plant and each plant has its own characteristics, so it’s usually just easier to make culinary plans based on the ingredient.

Still, it gives foodies and botanists something to talk about.

Really a Root:  
horseradish_xsm Horseradish Roots
salsify_xsm Salsify Roots
 
Actually a Rhizome:  
wasabi_xsm Wasabi Roots
turmeric_xsm Turmeric Roots
galanga_xsm Galangal Roots
lotus-root_xsm Lotus Roots
   Ginger Roots
 
Actually a Tuber:  
All-Blue-xsm Heirloom Potatoes
sunchoke_xsm Jerusalem Artichokes (aka Sunchokes)
 
Actually a Corm:  
taro_xsm Taro Roots



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