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Just Beet It


One of my proudest healthy eating mama moments came when I took my daughter to our family doctor for her three-year-old check up. The doctor was giving me the standard (and sound!) advice on feeding my child a variety of foods including vegetables.

“We eat a lot of vegetables,” I sincerely assured her.

The doctor nodded with a look that said, “all parents say that,” and then turned to my young daughter and asked, “what’s your favorite vegetable?”

Much to my delight and to my doctor’s surprise, my usually quiet daughter, immediately and enthusiastically replied, “beets!”

Over ten years later, the gorgeous and versatile beet is still a welcome addition to our family’s menus. They make a regular appearance in my shopping cart throughout the year.

I look for beets that are smooth and round with a deep purple-red color. A few beet varieties are pale orange, gold or even playfully variegated with striped hues and often a milder flavor. I prefer to buy beets when they still have their tops attached because you get the bonus prize of nutrient packed dark leafy greens with every bunch.

I cut the leaves off about an inch above the beet, and then put them in a plastic bag and refrigerate them separately from the beets. The greens will keep up to one week and the beets will keep for two to three weeks. But in my house, they both usually find their way to our table long before that.

In cooler weather I love to roast beets. With just a splash of liquid, a twist of pepper and a pinch of caraway seeds, all wrapped up in parchment paper, they make a delicious smoky-sweet side dish. If I want a little more variety, I roast them along with other roots veggies.

Try beets with any combination of red and purple potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, turnips or parsnips for a tasty rainbow of colors.

If the beets are young, tender and small, I give them a good scrubbing and leave their skin on. This minimizes their tendency to “bleed” and color everything they touch a rich ruby red.

If they are larger and thicker skinned then I’ll peel them, either before I cook them or after roasting.

Steaming is another easy way to prepare beets. Wash, peel and cut them into quarters or eighths depending on their size. Place them in a steamer basket over an inch or so of water.

Alternatively you can put them directly into a sauce pan with a small amount of water. Then cover and simmer, making sure the water doesn’t evaporate, until you can easily pierce the beets with the tip of a knife. I like to add the chopped beet greens to the steamer for the last final minutes of cooking. The pairing of the slightly bitter wilted greens and the sweet firm beets is delicious!

Adding some chopped oranges even further enhances this simple dish. Another way we like our beets is not cooked at all.

Here’s a recipe for a great salad starring beets:

2 beets, washed and peeled

2 carrots, washed well

6-8 collard green leaves, finely chopped

10-12 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, finely grated

1 T. balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Pinch of sea salt (optional)

Grate beets and carrots on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve at once, or refrigerate until serving.

Once dressed, this salad keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.

Make a big batch and have veggies ready to eat! I also like to make it with grated fresh ginger, a large amount of mint, rice vinegar instead of balsamic, and a splash of tamari. For another variation on this theme, try this Beet and Mint Slaw.

So get creative with your beets! Try them in slaws, salads and sides, not to mention stews, soups, smoothies, cakes and burgers. (Yes! Cakes and burgers!)

How does this beautiful root show up on your table?

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sherri says …

I am embarrassed to admit that the only beets I like are the pickled beets in a jar! I have tried the plain sliced beets at various salad bars, but they have no flavor. They must come in a jar too? I should try a fresh beet sometime!

Sally Black says …

Found the most amazing dried beet chips in Bedugal vegetable markets, Bali.I'm addicted.

says …

@Sally And you're lucky enough to have traveled to Bali too! So jealous!

Van says …

Beets are awesome juiced! They add a slightly earthy flavor (my husband likes it more than me). My favorite part about juicing beets though is that they'll turn the juice a brilliant pink or red no matter what! Here's one recipe using beets in juice: http://greensvegfruit.blogspot.com/2012/01/juice-bloody-grass.html I clean them by scrubbing them with a vegetable mitt (I think I got it at Whole Foods). No need to peel. And you can also use beet greens in smoothies! I use beets all the time to juice so more recipes will follow!

Felicia says …

My favorite way to prepare beets is by pureeing the beet and greens together. I then add the puree to a pot with rice, water, and 2-3 pressed garlic cloves and cook the rice like normal. When it's done I mix in cheddar cheese and it's a yummy, creamy, and pink rice dish. It was beautiful for Valentine's Day. ;)

Jeri says …

Beets are also one of my fav veggies but it wasn't always. When I was pregnant 27 years ago with my first born, my landlord, who my children came to call Papa Guy, would leave a bunch of beets on my doorstep every second day. We shared a large vegetable patch behind our homes. He felt I looked too spindley as a pregnant lady & felt that the beets would be a nutritious boost for me. I kept telling him I didn't like beets & was passing them off to my Mum. He had his wife, Grammie Guy to my children, prepare me Harvard Beets to introduce me to them. I have been hooked ever since. I will eat beets any way I can get them & Thank-you for your recipes...being a vegan has me scouring for new & ingenuous ways to cook beets & other veggies. Thank-you also for evoking lovely memories of two wonderful individuals who I know are smiling down upon this recanting of my early years with these lovely & much loved neighbors & friends:)

Brenda Willis says …

Very interesting. I love beets also. I add beets with fruits and juice it.

debbie T says …

I love beets too! And I love your daughter's answer to the doctor! How wonderful that her tastes are so varied (and healthy!) I can only wish that all kids could be raised this way!

Daria says …

I love roasted beets salad with arugula and parmegiano. I also like borsh of course (since I'm Russian) and another appetizer which is: grated beets, minced garlic, mayo or sour cream (whatever you prefer), salt, lemon juice

John from Store Hours says …

Hi Brenda Willis i read your comment and i wanna tell you that i do the same, I add beets with fruits and juice it it's taste really nice and it is very healthy too... :). I frequently takes a beet for nearby store except except that's specific store hours timings suits to me..

Bianca Sigala says …

During the summer for a cold refreshing treat I make very berry beet smoothies. I steam a couple beets for the week and keep them in an air tight container in the fridge, and when the berries are ripe, cheap, and in season I stock up on them and freeze them. I make very tasty and nutritious smoothies in my ninja blender with the beets, berries, and or banana for estra sweetness. I also add finely shredded carrot or left over steamed carrots and a handful or two of any kind of green that I have on hand, from lettuce to kale and swiss chard. This combination may sound odd, but when carrots and beets are steamed the natural sweetness is enhanced tremendously.To make the smoothie "blendable" I add almond milk for liquid. If I still want a little extra sweetness I add a splash of juice or a squeeze of agave nectar. The smoothie comes out to be a beautiful deep red color and it hides the appearance of the greens which is good for my son, who eats and drinks with his eyes first.

Phyllis K Boyajian says …

I cook the greens and mix them with home made yogurt and some onion salt. This disappears in my house faster than you can blink. I make "stick soup" out of the stems of the beets by boiling them with some beef broth, a package of onion soup mix, and lemon juice. Favorite of my granddaughters.

Hazel says …

I use beets on my Australian hamburgers, along with other veggies, as well as, pineapple and eggs!! Delicious. Follow the link to the recipe. http://heypaw.blogspot.com/2012/01/australian-hamburger-with-pineapple-and.html?m=1

Matilde says …

I love making my potatoe salad with beets, yummie!

ivanilda santos says …

I cooke my beets with beans, so i do not loose none of the nutrients and my beans comes colorful and tasty. I also shave it raw with carrots for a salad. use lemon and olive oil.

Annie says …

I had a similar experience at my sons three year appointment. When the doctor asked him, " Whats your favorite thing to eat?" Kai's response was, "fruits and vegetables!". The doctors eyes rolled as he looked at me and said, "yeah, right!". My son was completely confused as I tried to explain our healthy life-style. :-/

Melanie Potock says …

Love these ideas! Thank you! Melanie

Sze Chan says …

Falafel and Beets make a great combo. Does anyone have a good falafel recipe?

says …

@Sze The online recipe index for Whole Foods Market has a felafel recipe for you! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1650

Sam says …

My favorite beet recipe is to steam them until soft with skin on, then after cooled, slice and add balsamic vinegar and a little oil to marinade them. They are so good.

Elena says …

For Easter I boil the beet, then grate it and mix it with grated horseradish, to accompany the painted Easter eggs as a salad. Quite intense.

Joan chaffin says …

Do you carry beet juice at your Pittsburgh, PA