At the root of the matter

In the depths of winter, with all the colourful parts of the plants hidden away, here at Storm we’re getting to know roots much better.

Roots are the underground part of a plant. Though you can’t see them, they play one of the most important roles. While the leaves bring sunlight and carbon dioxide into the plant, roots draw water and nutrients from the soil in order to feed the plant.

Most larger plants, like trees, often start with a large root, which then spread out into smaller roots. By spreading out, they are able to gain as much goodness as possible from the earth. The root also allows the plant to anchor itself in the ground, useful for when bad weather and animals shake it. If you’ve ever seen a tree felled in a storm, you’ll know how impressive the root system can be.

ImageAbove: Tree roots visible after the Great Storm of 1987

Roots such as carrots, parsnips and turnips can often be used as food for humans and animals. These types of plant have a single, large root, which is called a tap root. Traditionally, in climates such as the UK, root vegetables are a staple diet for winter. This is because the root hoards much of the plant’s food and water here. By keeping its food source underground it is better protected against predators and cold weather. So when your tomatoes, lettuce and berries disappear with the mid-autumn snap, the hardier underground root vegetables are doing just fine.

This makes them the perfect winter veg. A firm favourite at Storm is Jamie’s winter stew, using onions, carrots, parsnips and any other root veg you can get your hands on.

To learn more about how roots fit into the rest of the plant, keep an eye out for our app Naming Parts of Plants and Animals – out later this month!

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