I love beets with their rich colors, earthy appearance, good nutrition and delicious flavor! You probably recognize the reddish-purple variety, but keep an eye out for others, like golden beets, that are milder in flavor and equally delicious. Beets at their peak now - June through October - and it's the perfect time to turn them into bright, flavorful, naturally sweet dishes. Make sure you go for the whole shebang - eating the edible greens along with the root to get all of their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants!
Beets are kin to Swiss chard, another variety of leafy greens. You can eat the root raw - it is delicious grated in salads - or you can cook it to a buttery-soft consistency. My personal favorite is roasting! The gorgeous green leaves have a slightly bitter taste, similar to chard but with a higher concentration of oxalic acid, so it's a good idea to cook the greens. The exception is the tender baby beet greens often found in pre-packaged salad mixes. Cook beet greens just like you would spinach or chard; they're tender and require less cooking time than tougher greens such as collards, mustard and kale.
Remember that red beets love to spread their glow turning everything they come in contact with the same color, whether it's other food or your shirt! To help avoid this, be sure to leave an inch of the stem attached to the root when cooking. Once tender, the skin will slip off easily for slicing or cubing. Wearing kitchen gloves is a good idea when handling beets. If your hands do turn beet red, lemon juice should help remove the stains.
Here's what makes beets (and their greens) unbeatable:
- Sweet and delicious, low in calories and fat.
- Excellent source of folate, an essential B vitamin necessary for production and repair of DNA.
- The beet's deep red color is one of the keys to its health-protecting powers: the pigment that stains your hands and cutting board acts as a powerful antioxidant, supporting heart health and healthy cell function.
- The yummy greens contain vitamin A and vitamin C as well as potassium, calcium and iron.
When shopping for beets, be sure to choose beets with firm roots, deep color and no soft or bruised spots. The greens should look firm and fresh; be sure to cut them away from the root, leaving an inch or two attached. This prevents the roots from "bleeding" and helps keep the greens fresher longer. Store unwashed beet roots in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to a month, but use the greens within a few days.
Check out these great ideas for adding beets and beet greens to your meals:
- Steam or sauté the greens; top with peeled, grated and marinated beet root.
- Chop the greens and add to stir fries, soups or stews - about 5 minutes before serving for best flavor and nutrition. Try our Savory Greens Stir-Fry with beet greens.
- Steam beets and greens together as in this Tangy Buttered Beet and Beet Greens with Dijon.
- Add grated beet root to grated carrots and raisins.
- Add grated beet roots to coleslaw.
- Grate beet root and stir into hot soups or stews just before serving.
- Roast beets: Heat oven to 400°F. Place beets on a piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet and make a pouch out of the foil, sealing it tightly. Bake for 40 minutes until beets are tender. Remove from oven and let beets steam for 10 minutes. Open pouch and let beets cool slightly. Enjoy over steamed beet greens with a dollop of sour cream or hummus.
- Add roasted beets to salads like in this Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette.
- Serve sliced cooked beets with sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some slivered basil.
- Marinate roasted or steamed beets in your favorite salad dressing; enjoy over salads or as a side dish. Here's a Beet Salad with Arugula and Lemon Ginger Dressing.
- Pickle your beets. We did it here in this recipe for Pickled Eggs and Beets.
- Mix beets with citrus fruit for a refreshing salad. Here's an idea for Beet Salad with Oranges and Romaine.
Got some un-beet-able beet ideas and recipes you'd like to share? Let me know!