Seasonal Feature: Beets
Beets are one of the most versatile, yet often overlooked, vegetables around. Since Roman times, beet juice has been considered an aphrodisiac. It is a rich source of the mineral boron, which plays an important role in the production of human sex hormones. From the Middle Ages, beetroot was used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, especially illnesses relating to digestion and the blood. Doctors recommended taking beetroot with garlic to nullify the effects of garlic-breath although this not and FDA approved remedy!
Beta vulgaris (a.k.a. beets) contain significant amounts of vitamin C, folate, betaine, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, and antioxidants. Although the sugar content is typically around 10%, the beet actually contains more sugar than carrots or corn. Not only are the good for you, but they also come in a rainbow of colors – red, yellow, pink, and even alternating red and white stripes.
How to Buy and Store
Look for beets with their tops – those tops are an indicator of freshness. Fresh beets will be sweet and earthy. If they’re sold without their tops, chances are they’ve been around in a while and the sugars have turned to starch.
The skins should be tight and smooth, the leaves bright and shiny (no wilting), and the beets themselves firm. When you get them home, cut off the leaves (you can eat them) about 1 inch above the beet. Wash well and then store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them – ideally within 5 days for the best flavor.
How to Use
Here’s how I like to eat my beets:
- Raw. Believe it or not, raw beets are fantastic. Simple scrub well, peel, and thinly slice using a mandoline or a very sharp knife. Use them in salads or as gorgeous side dish.
- Pickled. Skip the canned kind and make your own. Pour a good quality vinegar over thinly sliced beets and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
- Sautéed. Don’t throw out the leafy greens. A great source of Vitamin A, they can be thinly sliced and sautéed with a little olive oil, garlic, and salt.
- Roasted. Wrap your beets in foil and roast in a 350-degree oven until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool, peel, and sliced into wedges. While they are still warm, toss them with a little white wine vinegar and let them marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes. Then serve them in your favorite salad or as a great side dish.
- Juiced. Scrubbed and peeled, beets make great juice. Try mixing it with a little freshly squeezed orange juice and grated ginger for an energizing morning drink.