Sweet, earthy, and vibrant in color, beets pack a powerful punch when it comes to flavor and health benefits. Raw or cooked, in soup or salad, grilled or otherwise, this cardiovascular-friendly vegetable has so many possibilities for the palate and the body.
Beets are available year-round, but the best time to buy them is June through October, when they are most tender. If homegrown, beets can be stored over the winter in several different ways. A crisper in the refrigerator will keep beets just as firm as when they were first lifted from the ground for several months. And don’t rule out canned beets; they can be transformed into wonderful dishes. Plus they are very inexpensive and store for years.
Varieties of beets include red, golden, and Chioggia, which have a red and white bulls-eye pattern when sliced. Let’s not forget the greens that grow up tall from the beetroot. These are similar to spinach and can be prepared in a similar way. When harvested young, beet greens make a wonderful addition to salads, plus they can also be stored over the winter by blanching and freezing them. They are a wonderful addition to soups, burritos, and stir-fries.
Beets are incredibly nutritious. They are are high in folate. A healthy diet with enough folate may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with certain birth defects of the brain or spinal cord. Beetroots are also full of the phytonutrient betalain, which together with the folate works as an anti-inflammatory, and lowers your risk of heart disease. The pigments that causes varieties of beets to be red, betacyanins, are a potent cancer fighters, especially against colon cancer.
Beet greens are even more nutritious than the bulbs. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, iron, and potassium. Vitamin A is important for vision, growth and development, skin health, immune function, and reproduction. Vitamin C is important in immune response, wound healing, and allergic reactions, and also helps with iron absorption.
– Separate beet greens from the roots, leaving 1-2 inches of stem still attached to the bulb.
– Store roots and greens separately.
– Beet greens can be wrapped in a damp paper or cloth towel and stored in a refrigerator drawer.
– The roots can be left uncovered in a refrigerator drawer or kept in a paper bag.
– Beetroots will keep for several weeks, but greens are best used right away.
– Both beet greens and roots can be blanched and frozen for up to 1 year. The roots can be left chopped or pureed and added to soups, salads, pesto, red velvet cake, smoothies, or hummus.
– If storing beetroots from your garden or a CSA for the winter, check out this link for storage preparation.
– Wash beet greens in plenty of water and cook as you would any tender greens such as spinach. Saute in olive oil with a little garlic for a healthy side dish.
– Young beet greens can also be eaten raw. Try adding to green salads for an accent of color and flavor.
– Wash and gently scrub beet roots to remove dirt. Early in the summer the very young beets can be eaten with the skin on, but the matured beets will need to be peeled. Peel before or after cooking (the skin comes off much easier after cooking).
– Beet roots can be eaten raw as well as cooked. Try grating raw beets and adding to salads (good with grated raw carrots) or using as a topping on tacos, burritos, or tostadas.
– Beets are sweet and earthy and are good combined with other root vegetables such as onions, carrots, potatoes, or celery root. Beets can be roasted, steamed, grilled, boiled, and baked.
– Good seasonings for beets include olive oil, vinegar, lemon, mustard, cilantro, curry, yogurt, and/or sour cream.
– Cooked beets (in any form) can be pureed and used to make wonderful spreads and warming winter beverages.
Here are a few recipes for enjoying this versatile veggie!
Simple Roasted Beets
Beets (any quantity you desire)
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 425º F. Wash and dry beets. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, then and wrap beets in foil. Roast for about 1 and 1/2 hours. Let beets cool in the foil, and then simply rub the skin off and slice. Can be used for so many recipes, topping for salads, soups, dips, smoothies!