Eaten raw, fibrous root vegetables too often taste pretty much how they sound: dull and tough. But transforming them into a sweet, tender salad turns out to be simpler than we thought.

It’s all in how you slice them—or rather, grate them. Grating ruptures plant cells, releasing sugars and volatile hydrocarbons, the sources of the vegetable’s sweetness and aroma. The more cells you rupture, the better the taste. And grating ruptures more cells than just about any other prep technique. The shreds also have porous surfaces, which help the dressing stick.

The result is a sweeter, more tender and more flavorful salad even before you dress it. Shredded carrot salad is a French classic, but we’ve found the technique also works well with beets and jicama.