Are you learning more about veggies and gardening? Me too. So I’ve researched 22 vegetables that grow underground. I’m hoping my research will help me grow a better garden this year. And I hope it helps you too. So get ready to learn along with me.
We’ll look at some common veggies, plus we’ll look at some more unique and surprising underground vegetables.
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Table of Contents
List of 22 Vegetables that Grow Underground
Below is a list of 22 underground vegetables and some interesting information about each veggie.
I’ll present a list of the veggies first then you can scroll down if you want to learn more about each of the vegetables in this list.
Note from Tim the author: I enjoy gardening and want to get better at growing my own food, and I’ve included some first-hand experiences in this article from my 10+ years of gardening. But I’ve also added references from experts for a lot of the information provided in this article.
Feel free to click on them to learn more.
And you’ll want to make sure your soil is well-cleared of rocks and other hard objects that could inhibit the underground growth of these veggies. So it may take a bit of work to prepare the soil, but it’ll be worth it.
Concise list of underground vegetables
- sweet potatoes
- Hamburg parsley
- Jerusalem artichoke
Carrots (Daucus carota var. sativus)
Is there anything tastier than eating a freshly-harvested carrot from your garden?
Even though carrots are usually inexpensive and plentiful in grocery stores, it is still satisfying to grow them in your home garden.
And as the Washington State University Extension points out, there are different varieties of carrots and you should choose a variety that matches your soil.
For instance, if you have deep, loose, sandy soil you can grow longer-rooted conical carrot varieties such as ‘Danvers’ and ‘Nantes’.
If you have shallower soil or heavy, rocky soil, you’ll want to choose shorter-rooted carrot varieties (that don’t grow as deep into the soil) such as Globe carrots (round-shaped carrots) or ‘Chantenay’ (cone-shaped carrots about 6-inches long).
Interesting Fact: You can find colorful carrots…you don’t have to settle for just orange carrots. Some seed-sellers offer yellow, red or purple carrots. These different colors will provide you with different nutrients (called phytonutrients).
Beets (Beta vulgaris)
Beets are cool weather crops that don’t like the heat, but they do like deep soil that drains well. (Reference)
What’s great about beets is that you can eat the reddish underground root portion of this vegetable, AND you can also eat the above ground leaves: the beet greens. It’s like a tasty added bonus.
And because they don’t mind the cool, they’ll grow in partial shade too.
But as the Texas A&M University Extension points out that since the beets can extend roots 3 to 4 feet into the soil, you don’t want to plant your beets too close to trees or else the tree roots will interfere with your crop.
You should be able to harvest your beets in about 2-months time. The root of the beets (the fleshy red part) is a great addition to smoothies and provides a nice earthy flavor.
Beets are also grown and eaten because of their medicinal value.
Drinking raw beet juice may lower blood pressure because beets contain nitrates which can be converted by our bodies into Nitric oxide. (Reference: The BEETing of your Heart) Nitric oxide triggers our blood vessels to dilate (open up more). This lowers our blood pressure because it is easier to pump blood through an open, dilated blood vessel than it is to pump blood through a tight, constricted blood vessel.
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) 🥔
In the USA potatoes are definitely one of the most popular underground vegetables.
Potatoes can be prepared and eaten in SO many different ways. You can have mashed potatoes, French fries, potato chips, hashbrowns, scalloped potatoes, and lots more. (I sound like “Bubba” from “Forrest Gump” – but talking about potatoes not shrimp.)
They are a very versatile, calorie-rich vegetable that grows underground.
There are also lots of varieties of potatoes that have different shapes, colors and internal textures.
For instance, there are yellow potatoes like ‘Yukon Gold’, there are fingerling potatoes, red potatoes, white potatoes (like ‘Kennebec’ potatoes) and Russet potatoes.
According this article from Cornell University, potatoes grow best in acidic, well-drained soil and require full sun.
The soil temperature needs to be at least 40-degrees Fahrenheit before you can plant a ‘seed potato’ in the ground.
And you can get potato varieties that have different lengths of time before harvest. There are:
- ‘early’ varieties (approximately 65 days to harvest)
- ‘mid-season’ varieties (require about 80 days to harvest) and
- ‘late’ varieties that take 90 days or more before harvest. (Reference)
For more information on how to grow potatoes at home, check out this article from Cornell University.
Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas)
Sweet potatoes are another tasty root vegetable. They love hot weather, warm soil and have a longer growing season compared to regular potatoes. They require about 4 months to grow before you can harvest them. (Reference)
The sweet potato is believed to be native to Central America before it was spread throughout the world. (Reference)
Since it is native to a tropical region you can see why it loves warmth. It is considered appropriate for USDA zones 8-11. (Reference)
Interesting Fact: The above ground portion of the sweet potato is a vine and is related to the morning glory flower. (Reference) The sweet potato vine can grow and spread up to 20-feet. So this underground vegetables requires a lot of above-ground room to grow.
I tried to grow a sweet potato vine in a pot on my deck one summer, but the above-ground vine portion only got to be about 3-feet long. I think I’ll try a deeper container next year.
Sweet potatoes make absolutely delicious fries. (But it can be a little tricky getting the insides cooked and the outside crispy without scorching the outside.) And mashed sweet potatoes with some marshmallows melted in makes a tasty side dish (actually borderline dessert).
For more information on how to grow sweet potatoes, check out this article from The Spruce.
Turnips (Brassica rapa)
Turnips are a root vegetable that have edible leaves. So you can eat the root and the greens!
The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that turnips require full sun and grow best in cool weather: 45-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turnips are similar to rutabagas (more on those below), but turnips grow faster and can be harvested in 5-10 weeks depending on the variety.
Interest fact: turnips actually sweeten up if they’re exposed to a frost.
If you want more information on growing turnips, click here.
Rutabaga (Brassica napus)
This yellow-fleshed underground vegetable is also called the Swedish Turnip. And as you can guess by the name, rutabagas are thought to be native to Scandinavia and Russia. (Reference) Hence, they like cooler weather. This article from the University of Georgia extension said rutabagas grow best in 50-65 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.
And they have a rather long growing season: 3-4 months to grow before they can be harvested.
Interesting Fact: Rutabagas have an interesting origin story. They are the result of unlikely love affair between a turnip and a cabbage.
Well, that’s a little dramatic but a rutabaga is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. (Reference) This is why the rutabaga root looks so much like a turnip and the leaves of a rutabaga also look like a turnip, but they’re thicker…more cabbage-like.
Who said there was no drama, intrigue and romance in gardening?
And you can eat the leaves of a rutabaga. So if you’re a “nose-to-tail” kind of eater, you’ll appreciate the rutabaga.
Radishes (Raphanus sativus)
Radishes are awesome veggies for impatient home gardeners. They can be picked in as little as 3 weeks from when you plant them!
And your radish seeds will sprout in just a few days. It is so satisfying seeing those little green shoots burst up through the soil.
Because they can be harvested so quickly you can usually get a few radish crop harvests before the weather gets too hot.
Above is a picture of a radish that I grew last year. (Radishes seem to be the only vegetable I can grow well… so that’s why I’m researching this topic to improve my gardening skills. 😁 )
If you want more information on growing radishes, click here.
Daikon (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus)
The Daikon radish, also known as white radish or Asian radish, is a cool-weather root vegetable with a large white root that can weigh up to 2 pounds when fully grown.
The above ground leaves of the Daikon are edible and can be eaten as greens. It is another good “dual purpose vegetable.”
Even though Daikon is a type of radish, it is shaped like a carrot. And like carrots, Daikon has varieties that grow to different sizes and shapes (even round Daikons). (Reference)
Interesting Fact: Permaculture growers like Daikon because its root can bury deep into soil and even help break up compacted soil. (Reference)
Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
Parsnips are cool-weather root veggies similar to carrots. And like carrots they need deep, loosened soil that drains well.
Parsnips require some patience though. Parsnip seeds can take a few weeks to germinate, and may take 4-6 months until harvest. (Reference: Clemson University Extension)
Interesting Fact: I discovered that parsnips are considered an invasive species in some areas. Parsnip is a biennial crop meaning the first year it mostly grows its root (which we harvest and eat) and if not taken out of the ground it grows a tall stalk with umbrella-shaped clusters of small yellow flowers in the second year. (Reference)
And the sap from second-year parsnip has chemicals called psoralens that react with UV rays from sunlight to cause skin burns and irritation. (Reference: Ohio State University. They have pictures on this page of the skin reactions.)
So if you plan on growing parsnip in your garden make sure you properly harvest your parsnip during the first year so it doesn’t progress to its tall, second-year flowering form.
Hamburg Parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum)
We often think of parsley as a leafy herb to sprinkle on dishes or as a garnish. But there is a variety of parsley called Hamburg parsley, aka turnip-rooted parsley or root parsley, that is grown for its edible fleshy root.
Plus, you can also eat the leaves of Hamburg parsley. So it is another dual-purpose veggie where you can eat the above-ground and below-ground parts of this vegetable.
I haven’t tried Hamburg parsley before but some sources say the root tastes like parsnips, while I’ve also read it tastes a bit like celery. The root of Hamburg parsley looks like a skinny parsnip that can grow 8-10 inches long.
It is cool weather crop usually grown in Central and Northern Europe in places like northern Germany (the city of Hamburg is in northern Germany), and Poland. Apparently it is quite popular in stews and soups. (Reference)
If you want more information on growing this unique parsley with its edible root, check out this article from The Guardian.
Celeriac (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum)
Celeriac is a another vegetable that grows underground. It is sometimes called Celery root, knob celery, or turnip-rooted celery. (Reference: University of California)
NPR called celeriac the vegetable world’s ugly duckling. Pretty funny.
Interesting Fact: This root vegetable tastes similar to celery stalks.
Celeriac is a cool-weather crop that can take up to 4-5 months to reach maturity. (Reference)
You’ll need to regularly water Celeriac or else it could halt growing.
The Reader’s Digest book “Vegetable Gardening” by Bradley and Courtier suggest to harvest the roots when they are 3-5 inches in diameter in order to get the best taste and texture.
For more information on Celeriac, check out this PDF from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources website.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
This root vegetable is usually ground and combined with assorted vinegars to make the condiment we call horseradish.
It is a hardy plant that can grow in zones 2-9. (Reference)
Interesting Fact: According to this article from the New York Botanical Garden it is easy to grow. In fact, it can be invasive. So plant it in a spot in the ground where you can contain the roots, or plant it in a deep container so it can’t spread throughout your yard.
In the book “Vegetable Gardening” by Bradley & Courtier they suggest you bury a bottomless container into the ground and then plant your horseradish root inside the container. The sidewalls of the container will prevent the horizontal root shoots from spreading and growing into new plants.
This article from a gardener with the Ohio State University Extension states you should dig up your horseradish after the growing season. This is to avoid it converting into a ‘mother plant’ that sends out shoots which will grow into new horseradish plants.
Horseradish likes well-drained soil and grows in full sun but it can deal with some shade too.
Horseradish is a hardy plant, but one that can be invasive, so it sounds like it is best for home gardeners to grow it in a deep container or contained space.
Garlic (Allium sativum L.)
Many delicious recipes start with sautéing garlic. Imagine how satisfying it’ll be to harvest garlic from your own garden.
If you have relatively mild winters you can plant your garlic cloves in the fall and they’ll go dormant over the winter then awaken in the spring to start forming green leaves. If you have harsh, cold winters you may need to delay planting the garlic cloves until Spring. (Reference: the book “Vegetable Gardening“)
If you live in a northern, cooler zone you’ll want to buy garlic from a seed producer, and not grow garlic from a clove you bought at the grocery store. This is because garlic bought at the store is likely a “softneck” variety that is grown and better suited to more southern, warmer environments. (Reference: University of Minnesota Extension)
Interesting Fact: Garlic is used as a natural medicine for many different health disorders. One meta-analysis published in “The Journal of Clinical Hypertension” found that garlic appears to lower blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure better than a placebo supplement.
Onions (Allium cepa)
Onions prefer full sun and well-drained and organically-rich soil. You may need to add and dig-in some compost to your soil prior to planting your onions.
Onions do not have deep roots to fetch moistures from deep underground so they require frequent light watering. And according to the book “Vegetable Gardening” you only want to water the soil and not the foliage because this could lead to crop diseases.
And because the onions have shallow roots you’ll need to weed gently to avoid damaging the onion’s roots.
Interesting Fact: wearing swim goggles while cutting onions can help stop your eyes from watering. I know this fact personally because I do this when I’m slicing up particularly potent onions. (I may look ridiculous but at least I’m not crying over the food.)
If you want more information on how to grow onions, check out this article from the University of Minnesota Extension.
Cassava (Manihot esculenta)
This long root vegetable is also called yuca or tapioca among many other names.
It is a popular vegetable in Caribbean and Latin American cuisine. It is native to hot tropical areas like Central and South America.
So as you can probably guess it requires warm temperatures. The USDA states that cassava stops growing at temperatures below 10-degrees Celsius (50-degrees Fahrenheit).
Interesting Fact: cassava cannot be eaten raw due to the risk of cyanide poisoning. (Reference: The Spruce Eats) It must be peeled then cooked or processed properly to remove the risk of toxicity. Make sure you know how to prepare cassava before eating it.
Cassava can be cooked in a variety of way including baking it, steaming it, and frying it. Plus, it can processed into cassava flour, or made into breads and tamales.
If you’re curious about what else you can make with cassava, check out this article listing a bunch of cassava recipes.
Another interesting fact about cassava is that it is one of the most efficient food crops at making carbohydrates. (Reference) It is a staple food for many around the world.
For more information about cassava click here.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger is a yummy addition to many food recipes and is a great additive to homemade tea and drinks.
It is a warm-weather loving vegetable that grows well in warm, loose soil. According to this article from the University of Vermont, ginger can be grown indoors in containers.
The part of the ginger plant we eat is the rhizome. (Reference)
Interesting Fact: Ginger is used around the world for various medicinal purposes such as nausea and upset stomach. In Canada there is a natural health product called “Gravol Ginger” that features organic ginger in tablet form and is marketed as a non-drowsy alternative to Gravol (the drug dimenhydrinate).
If you want more information on growing ginger, check out this article from Texas A&M University Extension.
Turmeric (Curcumin longa)
Turmeric is another vegetable that grows underground, and like ginger it is the rhizome part of the plant that is harvested and utilized.
And like Ginger, Turmeric is a warm-loving vegetable that needs temperatures at least 68-degrees Fahrenheit, and the minimum temperature must be above 50-degrees Fahrenheit. (Reference)
Interesting Fact: Turmeric is often used as a spice, and its component molecule called Curcumin is used in herbal medicine for many purposes including as an anti-inflammatory for patients with osteoarthritis. (Reference)
It may take 8 months or more before you have a harvestable Turmeric rhizome. If you don’t get those consistently high outdoor temperatures where you live, you can try growing turmeric inside in a container. This article from University of Vermont will tell you how.
Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
Taro is a very popular vegetable in the Pacific Islands. It is sometimes called the “potato of the humid tropics.” As you can probably guess by that nickname, taro requires warm weather to grow.
The part of the Taro that is often called “Taro root” is the ‘corm’ part of the plant. I had to look this term up. A corm is an underground portion of the plant’s stem that is enlarged and has a bulbous shape. (Reference)
The purpose of a corm is to hold starches for the plant. (Reference: Encyclopedia Britannica)
Interesting Fact: Taro is another vegetable that must be cooked prior to eating it. The raw form of Taro has too much Calcium oxalate in it and it can cause irritation in the mouth and throat, plus it could increase the risk of kidney stones. (Reference)
For more thorough information on Taro and growing Taro, check out this PDF.
Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus)
Jicama is an interesting vegetable because it’s the underground tuber that we eat, but the above ground part of the plant is actually a perennial vine. (Reference)
It is a legume in the bean family. Jicama is also called Yam Bean and Mexican turnip. (Reference)
Since we yank the underground tuber out to harvest it though, the above ground vine part of the plant is killed during harvesting. This means that when harvested it is only an annual plant and not perennial.
It is native to South America, Central America and Mexico. (Reference)
So based on its native region, you probably guessed that Jicama requires warm temperatures to grow and you’d be right. According to the Utah State University Extension the Jicama plant requires temperatures above 50-degrees Fahrenheit: it can be damaged by cooler climates.
It is classified as being hardy to USDA zones 10-12. (Reference)
Because Jicama it is a legume, it is a “nitrogen-fixer”. It has a unique relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in the plant’s root nodules. These bacteria can take free Nitrogen from the air and convert it into biologically-usable ammonia (NH3). (Reference)
It is incredible to think that even though the air is full of Nitrogen gas (about 80% of the Earth’s atmosphere is Nitrogen), living things cannot use this form of Nitrogen. We’re surrounded by it but we can’t use it.
We need Nitrogen to be in the ammonia form in order for us to survive.
And these little bacteria – that we can’t even see – are the only known things on Earth that can make the usable form of Nitrogen. (Reference) Just shows how much we owe to these tiny life forms!
The Jicama plant doesn’t require any extra nitrogen fertilization because the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its root nodules makes its own usable ammonia form of nitrogen.
Interesting Fact: ONLY eat the root of the jicama plant. The other parts of the plant are poisonous. (Reference)
Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
Despite being named after a city in the Middle East, Jerusalem Artichoke is native to North America and prefers the climate of northern USA and Canada. It is also called sunchoke or sunroot and it is grown for its edible underground tuber.
It is in the sunflower family, and can produce large yellow flowers that can attract birds. (Flowers shown in the picture below).
Interesting Fact: the Jerusalem Artichoke is an aggressive grower that can take over gardens and fields and is considered an invasive species in Europe. (Reference)
Keep this in mind before deciding to grow Jerusalem Artichoke in your garden.
Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius)
Even though salsify looks like a white carrot with hairs sticking out of it, it actually tastes a bit like an oyster. Weird! That is why this plant is sometimes called the Oyster plant. (Reference)
Salsify is a hardy root vegetable that likes deep, loose, well-draining soils and a sunny location. According to the University of Arkansas it is grown in a similar manner to parsnips. And like parsnips, salsify has a long growing time: up to 3 months for a harvest. (Reference)
It is hardy, but may be considered invasive in some regions. So check before planting. And since it is a biennial plant – meaning it makes flowers and seeds in the second year – you’ll want to harvest your plants at the end of the first growing season to prevent it going to seed the subsequent year. Tragopogon porrifolius (oyster plant) has purple flowers that allow it to be differentiated from its even more invasive cousin Tragopogon dubius which has yellow flowers.
Interesting Fact: The second year, purple flowers of Salsify open up early in the morning to follow the sun and then close-up around noon. (Reference)
Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea)
I was unsure whether a peanut should be considered a vegetable or not, but I’ve included it on this list because the peanut plant is a legume in the bean family.
We eat and use it like a “nut” in our recipes, but it is not a tree nut like almonds or walnuts. The “peanut” part that we eat is a seed grown inside a pod. And the pod is what we call the peanut shell.
It just so happens that the pod of a peanut plant grows underground.
Interesting Fact: after the above-ground flower of the peanut plant gets pollinated, it sends a “peg” down into the soil. (I think of it like a tent peg spiked down into the ground.) This peg carries the fertilized ovule down into the soil. And it is down in the soil that the peanut pod develops.
Peanuts are native to the tropics of South America. This is why growing peanuts requires 5 months or more of warm weather. (Reference: Encyclopedia Britannica)
Even though peanuts are native to South America they are now grown in warm areas around the world. China, India and Nigeria are the top 3 peanut-producing countries in the world and the USA is 4th. (Reference) So yes, peanuts can grow in the USA, but remember it needs to be warm for at least 5 months of the year. The Missouri Botanical Garden says peanuts do not do well north of Virginia.
Water Needs of a Peanut compared to an Almond
The “National Peanut Board” claims that to grow one ounce of peanuts it requires 3.2 gallons of water: compare this to almonds which requires 28.7 gallons of water to grow one ounce of almonds.
And because peanuts are legumes they have beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their roots which enrich the soils with biologically-usable nitrogen (in the form of ammonia).
Factors to Consider when Choosing what Vegetables to grow at home
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some factors to consider when choosing what vegetables to grow at home.
If a vegetable is cheap and readily available at a local grocery store, you’ll want to ask yourself: Do I want want to dedicate my limited growing space at home to this type of vegetable?
The answer still may be yes. Even though carrots are usually quite cheap at a store, many home gardeners still choose to grow them because a homegrown carrot can taste so delicious.
Available Gardening Space
You’ll need to look at the space you have available. Some underground veggies may require deep soil that you don’t have, or the above ground portion of the plant may take up a lot of room (like sweet potatoes).
So take your available gardening space into consideration – both above-ground and below-ground space.
What Gardening Zone are you in?
If you live in a cooler climate you aren’t going to be able to grow tropical vegetables outside. (Perhaps you can manage to grow it inside – like turmeric or ginger – or in a greenhouse, but these require additional planning and costs.)
Look at this list of under-ground vegetables and determine if any of them are suitable for your growing region. Even better yet, are any of them native to your region?
A native plant has adapted to grow in the temperature, soil and water -availability that is particular to your area. A native plant’s evolution over thousands of years has already done most of the hard work for you.
Sun, Water, and Soil Needs of the Plants
You’ll need to look at where your home garden is situated. How much sunshine will a plant get in the growing season? Do you have watering restrictions or limited water where you live? If so you may not be able to meet the watering needs of a water-thirsty plant.
Thanks for checking out my list of 22 vegetables that grow underground.
Has it inspired you to try growing some of these veggies at your house?
Please note that I have done my best to ensure accuracy and provided references where available, but if you come across any errors – or if you have any insights – please let me know.
Tim from LearnAlongWithMe.com
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