All About Beets

Beets are a root vegetable with two edible parts, the root and the green leaves!

The basics: The beets we use in salads and other recipes are referred to as the garden been.  There are also sugar beets, which are used to make sugar or are fermented to produce alcohol, and fodder beets, which are used for animal feed.  Garden beets come in red, golden, white, and red-and-white striped (Chioggia) variations.

  • Chioggia- Though these look like ordinary beets from the outside, on the inside they have a distinct red-and-white striped flesh.  These heirloom Italian beets are highest on the sweetness scale.
  • Golden- Golden beets are carrot-colored and have the advantage of not bleeding once they’re cooked.  They are mild in flavor and not as sweet as either Chioggia or red beets.
  • White- White beets look much like turnips and are not quite as sweet as the red, striped, or golden varieties.

Good stuff: Beyond their incredible, earthy flavor, beets are also a nutritional powerhouse.  Rich in fiber, folic acid (important for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy heart), and potassium, they’re an excellent way to boost the nutrition in a salad or pasta dish.  And with just 75 calories a cup (150 g), they’re especially nice when you’re keeping an eye on calories.

Pick it: Choose firm beets with smooth skins.  If the beet greens are still attached, they should be crisp and bright green.

Store it: Beet greens should be removed from the bulb as soon as you get them home because the greens pull out moisture from the bulb.  Trim the beet stem with a knife or kitchen shears to about 1 inch from the top of the beet – any more and you’ll lose nutrient when you cook them.  Store the greens separately from the bulb.  Beets will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

Use it: You can use the beet greens as well as the bulb, but the greens should be cooked within a day of purchasing them.  Beets can be boiled, but it’s the least flavorful way to cook them. They can be eaten raw if grated, and used in salads or as a garnish.  Roasting beets is my favorite method to cooking them.  Roasted beets will keep in the refrigerator for three days.  Once you’ve cooked them, you can do anything you want! Slice them thinly and give them a drizzle of good olive oil plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Or dice them and toss them with pasta and ricotta cheese.  Or cut them into wedges and serve over seasoned grains.

Credit: Eating in COLOR by Frances Largeman-Roth

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