Just Beet It
By Chelsea Fisher
This red-purple humble root contains more natural sugar than sweet corn. During the Great Depression, when cane sugar was widely rationed, bakers used boiled beets as a cake sweetener. Red velvet, anyone?
Despite their sugary content, these red roots “beet” the nutritional pants off refined sugars when it comes to delivering antioxidants and detoxifiers. Beets are high in fiber, and provide folate, potassium, and manganese. Pectin, the fiber found in beets, is believed to bind to excess hormones, heavy metals, and toxins in the digestive tract, helping them pass through without being absorbed. University of Wisconsin researchers have also found that betanin pigment, the source of beets’ luxurious color, boosts the body’s ability to combat cancer before it starts. Betanin can also color everything that goes through the digestive tract with it, so there can be an interesting ‘morning after’ effect from eating beets. Don’t worry, red or pink urine is normal for many people that eat beats.
Before you toss beets’ long, dark-green leaves in the compost, consider this: You’ve got your hands on a culinary twofer. Just one cup of cooked beet greens contains 220 % of daily vitamin A, 60 % of vitamin C, and 37 % of both potassium and manganese. Braised and served alongside their cabernet-colored roots, they’ll make an artist’s palette on your plate.
Though the memory of your grandmother spooning lifeless, canned beets onto your plate may still make you skeptical of their splendor, it’s worth revisiting fresh ones. Fresh beets are delicious pickled, pulverized, boiled, roasted, juiced, or eaten raw. When buying beets make sure they are smooth and firm and still have the greens attached. Beets with greens are a bonus; the greens can be cooked like spinach. To store, cut off the greens, which can suck the moisture out of the root during storage, and keep both in the fridge.
If you don’t want to deal with raw beets, look for the French ‘Rocal’ brand vacuum packed steamed beets in your local gourmet supermarket. They are a great standby. They are vinegar free, cost about the same as fresh, and keep indefinitely.
For a delicious and colorful soup try CFYL’s Spiced Beet and Tomato Soup. One of the easiest ways to make beets is to roast them. Remove the greens and wash. Cover the bottom of a baking sheet or roasting pan in foil (for easy cleaning). Place beets in the pan with a little water to keep them moist and cook for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. The skin should peel away easily after cooking. Slice the beets and use them as a colorful addition to salads. Top arugula with roasted beets, walnuts, and goat cheese for a quick to delight to both the eye and the mouth.
To prepare beet greens, heat some olive oil in a skillet, add garlic and onion and cook for about a minute. Then add chopped beet greens and cook until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper or try them in this tasty beets and greens salad.