Belowground Edible Plants

Dive into the world of botany with this quick guide on underground, edible plants.

August 2018
By Katie Scott and Kathy Willis

Cover courtesy of Templar Company Limited

Botanicum (Big Picture Press, 2017) by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis is a scientific and artistic introduction to the world of botany. With vivid illustrations by Scott and descriptive text by Willis, a professor of Biodiversity at the University of Oxford and director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, the botanical guide is both educational and enjoyable. Scott is also the illustrator to a sister book, Animalium. The following excerpt discusses the hardy and edible plants that grow underground.

Some plants stay alive during cold and dry seasons by storing starches, proteins, and other nutrients underground in roots, rhizomes, or tubers. Many food crops are provided by these belowground storage organs, including the world’s fourth most important food source, the potato, which is a tuber.

Root vegetables include carrots, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, mangel-wurzel, black salsify, and radishes. Below ground, they grow as a swollen root in a variety of shapes. Leaves grow directly from the aboveground shoulder of this tap root, and there is little or no aboveground stem, only leaves.