Eat your BEETS!

Excerpt from GRACE COMMUNICATIONS post All About BEETS


Colorful and Delicious Beets

Beets come in a rainbow of colors, including bright red and pink varieties; the sunny golden beet; the aforementioned striped Chioggia (“candy cane”) beet; the bull’s blood beet (which has dark purple, almost black leaves) and even white varieties. Generally, beets are globe-shaped, but there are a handful of varieties that are cylindrical. Beets also come in a range of sizes – I prefer baby-to-medium sized beets for the best flavor and texture. Very large beetroots can be tough and fibrous.

Beetroot is high in fiber, folate and manganese, and is a decent source of vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. The greens, though, are really the nutritional powerhouse of the plant. They are super high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese – the list goes on and on. The pigments responsible for both red and yellow beets, betalains, are antioxidants and may also be cancer-preventatives.

What to Look for
Seek out beets that feel heavy for their size, with no mushy or black areas. If sold with their greens attached, the leaves should be sprightly (not wilted) with no yellow spots.

What to Do with It
Every single part of the table beet is edible – roots, stems and leaves – and delicious.

Beetroot can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, steamed, sautéed and even made into chips (yes, please!). It is excellent paired with salty or creamy cheese (think feta, goat, ricotta), nuts and citrus. My favorite way to cook beets is to roast them whole (see recipe, below) – this super simple method concentrates the sweet and earthy flavors. (In a pinch, I’ve also successfully microwaved them.) Beets are an essential part of Russian and Eastern European cooking; probably the most famous dish is borscht, a (usually) beet-based soup with many regional variations. The old-fashioned and academically named Harvard beets are boiled and topped with a cornstarch-thickened sweet and sour sauce. Beets are also used in baking, as both a food coloring (check out this red velvet cake made with beets instead of red dye) and to add moistness (like in this chocolate beet cake with crème fraiche).

Beet leaves are excellent raw, boiled, steamed and sautéed. Add the leaves to any recipe calling for spinach or chard. I also really, really like beet stems – I find boiling them for 7-8 minutes in salted water, until tender (see recipe below) is the best way to cook them. Toss them with extra virgin olive oil, salt and a dash of red wine vinegar.

Pro Tips
Getting the skin off of roasted beets can be a bit difficult, try this from the venerable chef Thomas Keller – after letting the roasted beets cool slightly, rub the skins off with a paper towel (or a rough dishtowel you don’t mind getting stained). The skins will come right off with very minimal effort and no vegetable peeler necessary. You’re welcome!

Beetroot can be stored loose in your fridge’s veggie drawer for at least two to three weeks, or even longer. Beet greens are far more delicate and should be cooked within two or three days of purchase; cut greens from the roots and store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Stretching Your Fresh Food Dollar Though Preservation
Pickling beets is a great way to preserve them – I have to admit that lately, pickled beets have been elevated to something much more delicious than my public school lunch fare. Beets can also be lacto-fermented; beet kvass, a super healthy drink made from lacto-fermented beets, is another great way to preserve the beet harvest. Beets can also be canned and frozen.