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.
Do Beets Have A “Season”?
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.
Beet Storage Tips
- 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 Recipes
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!
1/2 pound beets (about 4 medium sized beets), scrubbed clean, cooked (roasted, steamed, or boiled), peeled, and cubed*
2 tablespoon tahini sesame seed paste
5 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest from approx. 2 lemons)
Generous pinch of sea salt or Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings and ingredients as desired. Chill and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage. Eat with pita chips, or with sliced cucumber or celery, or on a crostini with goat cheese and shaved mint. Wonderful on sandwiches too! Yield: 2 cups
Beet Green Pesto
Beet greens—from about 6 beets
1/2 cup light packed fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 cup olive oil (more or less depending on taste and texture)
Kosher salt fresh cracked pepper
Add the greens, basil, and pecans. Chop until fine. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano and stream in olive oil till desired consistency is reached. Season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. If the greens are tough, blanch them quickly and squeeze out water. To blanch greens you simply cut away any woody stems and just use the green portion of the stems. Wash thoroughly and set aside. Get a large pot and put it on the stove until boiling. Set another large bowl full of ice water next to the stove. Add greens to boiling water, leave in for 10 seconds, remove and immediately put into ice water. Then drain. Blanching helps soften the beet greens without losing the color.
Beet Apple and Raisin Salad
1 cup sour cream, low fat or non fat
2-3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 small bunches of beets (3/4 pound) trimmed, peeled and grated using large holes on grater
3 sweet, crisp apples (life Fuji, Gala, Honey Crisp or Braeburn), cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
5 tablespoons golden raisins
3 tablespoons toasted, chopped nuts
3 tablespoons chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl prepare dressing by mixing sour cream, mustard and vinegar and set aside. In a larger bowl combine beets, apples, raisins, nuts, and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with dressing and serve.
Red Velvet Smoothie
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt- plan or vanilla
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup roasted beets (I used mostly golden beets and a few red beets for color. The golden beets tend to have to have less of that earthy-beet taste)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/3 cup frozen raspberries
Half of a frozen banana (optional)
*4-6 drops liquid stevia or a few tsp. of your favorite sweetener
Place everything in a blender and puree. Great served warm or cold!
Beet Greens Recipe
While this recipe calls for discarding the stems, if you want you can use them too if they aren’t too woody. Just cut them into 1″ segments and add them to the onions after the onions have been cooking for a minute.
1 pound beet greens
1 strip of thick cut bacon, chopped (or a tablespoon of bacon fat)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/6 cup of cider vinegar
Wash the greens in a sink filled with cold water. Drain greens and wash a second time. Drain greens and cut away any heavy stems (optional). Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. In a large skillet or 3-quart saucepan, cook bacon until lightly browned on medium heat (or heat 1 tablespoon of bacon fat). Add onions, cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and start to brown. Stir in garlic. Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan. Stir in sugar and red pepper. Bring mixture to a boil. Add the beet greens, gently toss in the onion mixture so the greens are well coated. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5-15 minutes until the greens are tender. Stir in vinegar. (For kale or collard greens continue cooking additional 20 to 25 minutes or until desired tenderness.)
Beet Red Velvet Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting
Red velvet without the artificial dye? This is it! Using garden or farmers’ market beets to color these cupcakes makes a world of difference in moistness and flavor. This is a no cocoa powder recipe. And no one will know they contain beets, so your secret is safe with us!
For the cupcakes:
1 pound red beets (3 medium), scrubbed (or 1 1/4 cup beet puree, can be from frozen puree)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap each beet in foil, put on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast until tender when pierced, 1–1½ hours. Let cool. Peel, cut into chunks, and purée in a food processor. Measure 1¼ cups beet purée. If you have extra, freeze it for the next batch.
Bring oven temperature back up to 350°F.
Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Whisk together beet purée, granulated sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. With a plastic spatula, stir in flour mixture, one-third at a time just until smooth.
Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each almost to the top of the liner. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops look firm. Let cool in the pan on a rack 10 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Frost when cupcakes are completely cool.